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Iraq: Blame the Americans and Praise the Result
   

December 18, 2005: Arguably, the best outcome for the December 15th parliamentary elections in Iraq would be for no "party" or coalition of two parties to secure the 2/3rds majority of delegates necessary to permit it to form a government. This would force a broader coalition, which would permit an opening for Sunni "accomodationist" participation. Sunni leaders are aware that they made a serious political blunder by boycotting the January elections for the provisional parliament that wrote the new Constitution. As a result of the boycott, there was relatively little the Sunni input in the framing of the Constitution, and Sunni representation in parliament will be on the low side. As a result, Sunni accomodationists are likely to welcome a niche if a coalition has to be formed.

Toward this end, it was interesting to note that some Sunni insurgent groups declared a "cease fire" during the election, and others declared that they would attack anyone attempting to interfere in the voting. While some extremists among the Shia Iraqis would undoubtedly prefer to exclude the Sunni Arabs totally from government - feeling that after generations of Sunni Arab domination of Iraq "it's payback time" - the chances of establishing a relatively stable government are likely to be dim unless there's significant Sunni Arab acquiescence.

Al Qaeda was humiliated during the elections, after having proclaimed that voting was against Islam, and that good Moslems should rise up and prevent this abomination. About 70 percent of eligible voters turned out, and there were few incidents of violence. The word on the street was that al Qaeda had called off its anti-democracy campaign. This bothered al Qaeda so much that they issued a statement denouncing it. But al Qaeda claims that they did attack the voters rang hollow. The Sunni Arab community had decided to either vote, or not try and fight those who were. In areas where al Qaeda still has a presence, local tribal or Mosque based militias put out armed guards to keep al Qaeda away from the polling places. These guys are usually shooting at government or American troops. But on election day, they were left alone by Iraqi troops, as everyone turned out to protect the voters from Islamic terrorists.

This relentless progress of democracy is causing quite a commotion throughout the Arab world. While it is fashionable to denounce the American presence in Iraq, and what the Americans were doing, the Arab language buzz on the net is going in unexpected directions. Because of al Jazeera and the Internet, young Arabs everywhere are not only able to observe what it happening in Iraq, but to discuss it with young Iraqis. These discussions are not noted much in the West, because they generally take place in Arabic, and often via email and listservs. The non-Iraqi Arabs are impressed at the proliferation of media in Iraq, and the eagerness of Iraqis to vote, and make democracy work. The economic growth in Iraq is admired, and is already attracting entrepreneurs from other Arab countries. The more cynical non-Iraqis believe that it will all come to nothing, and that another Saddam will eventually emerge and shut down all this democratic nonsense, as is the case in most of the Arab world. But the pessimists appear to be in the minority. Arabs are tired of dictators, economic stagnation, the corruption and living in a police state. Moreover, there's a nimble quality in Arab thinking that allows them to simultaneously blame the Americans for going into Iraq, and praising the result.