by Austin Bay
March 9, 2010
What kind of coalition government will
emerge from Iraq's March 7 national elections? Initial reports indicate Prime
Minister Noori al-Maliki's supporters won a plurality of the vote (perhaps a
third), with former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's "secular
list" in second place. An Iraqi political analyst I spoke with said
post-election political negotiations are underway, and the new coalition arrangements
will clarify by early to mid-April.
Whether dubbed horse-trading or
camel-haggling, the post-election process of parliamentary coalition building
is another signal that open, democratic politics -- with its frustrating
uncertainties, compromise and concessions -- are emerging in Iraq. The violent
whim of the dictator no longer rules.
"Emerging" is the operative
word. Iraq's institutions remain fragile. Corrupt business practices and
bribery threaten public trust in the nascent government. While the Iraqi Army
has demonstrated increasing self-sufficiency in conducting internal security
operations (beginning with Operation Charge of the Knights in March 2008),
police forces (especially local departments) are at best iffy organizations.
Though Iraqi Kurdish leaders express strong support for the Baghdad government,
complex and potentially violent administrative problems (the city of Kirkuk,
for example) are unresolved.
External enemies threaten Iraq. The
Khomeinist thugocracy controlling Iran fears Iraq's democracy, for it gives
Iranian opposition Green Movement activists a Middle Eastern model of palpable
democratic political change. So the mullahs meddle, with guns and money.
Iranian intelligence agents definitely support Shia Arab gangsters in Iraq and may
well aid Iraqi Sunni extremists. The Iranian nuclear weapons program is as much
a threat to Iraq as it is to Israel --perhaps more so, since the Iraqis are the
Iranians' ancient antagonists.
Baathist Syria continues to provide a
haven for "former regime elements" -- bigshots in Saddam Hussein's
horrid tyranny. The tyrant's exiled minions have cash filched from the Iraqi
people during the dictatorship. There is reason to believe they help both
pro-Saddam and al-Qaida terrorists in Iraq.
Indeed, terrorist bombs (most detonated in
Baghdad, so television crews could cover the sensational carnage) scarred the
elections, but the Iraqi people went to the polls. Iraqi voters once again
waved ink-stained fingers, as they did in January 2005 when Iraq conducted its
first national election and the Iraqi people demonstrated they were prepared to
die to forward Iraq's liberating political experiment.
It is regrettable that so many
privileged citizens in free societies dismissed and denigrated those
groundbreaking elections. The 2010 elections provide an appropriate time for
the cultural and ethnic snobs (and snob is a kind word) who declared that
democratic politics were beyond Iraqi capabilities to issue a series of abject,
groveling apologies. The most reprehensible faction in this defeatist crowd is
the ignorant clot of hard-left propagandists and faculty-club chumps who swore
the Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein's vicious tyranny. The election
serves as a teaching moment for these purveyors of fascism and inhumanity.
Given Iraq's democratic promise, the
external threats it faces and its internal fragility, the Obama administration
must reconsider its "hard and fast" withdrawal timetable for combat
The turmoil in neighboring Iran, which
began in June 2009, is reason enough for Obama to offer to amend his August
deadline. There are other issues as well, such as ensuring adequate defense of
Iraqi air space. The Iraqi Air Force currently flies prop planes and
helicopters. Let the new Iraqi governing coalition make the decision about the
retention of combat forces.
Treating the Iraqis as allies capable
of assessing changing conditions would be truly smart diplomacy. Iraq needs a
reliable American partner, and to promote genuine peace in the Middle East,
America sorely needs a democratic Iraqi ally.