The parliamentary elections in two days will change the political landscape. Sunni Arabs are much more involved this time around. They are not alone. The two traditional Kurdish parties, based on clan loyalties, are being challenged by a new party, based on reform. The Shia majority has dozens of parties, representing tribes, political factions and paid agents for Iran. Ultimate victory, in forming a coalition large enough to rule, will go to whoever is best at making deals. Most Iraqis don't expect this coalition building to involve force and civil war, which is an unusual attitude in this part of the world. There are still Sunni and Shia radical groups willing to kill, but they are a minority, growing smaller while remaining deadly enough to stay in the news at least once a month. Most of the deaths to security forces and civilians are the result of ordinary criminals, who have been feeling more heat as the number of organized terror groups continues to shrink.
To assure Sunni Arab participation in the elections, the government has restored 20,000 Sunni Arab military officers who were banned from military service in 2003. At the time, it was feared that the army could not be trusted because most of the officers and NCOs were Sunni Arabs, so nearly all of them were dismissed. But now, seven years later, with the Kurdish and Shia Arab majority firmly in control, the government can afford to allow many of these Sunni Arab officers rejoin the military, or at least apply for jobs. Many of these Sunni Arab officers still have technical skills the new Iraqi armed forces lack.
In the north, around Mosul, Christians are protesting the lack of security. Islamic radicals have been increasing their attacks on Christians, killing several a week for the last month. Nearly 5,000 Christians have fled their homes in the last month, in response to threats by Sunni Arab terrorists. Such threats are nothing new, and have been getting worse for over a century. Christians are only 2-3 percent of the population, while a century ago they were over ten percent.
March 4, 2010: Terror attacks in Baghdad left 14 dead.
March 3, 2010: Three suicide bombers struck in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, leaving 32 dead. One of the attacks used an ambulance to kill wounded people at a hospital. This is the worst day for Islamic terrorism since February 1st, when a female suicide bomber killed over fifty women and children. The Sunni Arab terror groups are still getting financial support from Saddam cronies in exile, but there is much less willingness for these kinds of attacks among Sunni Arabs in Iraq.
February 28, 2010: The government retired nearly 600 senior officers in the security services, on suspicion of pro-terrorist attitudes or corruption. All the dismissed officers had previously worked for Saddam Hussein. This was part of a broader government effort to find and remove officials who are corrupt, disloyal or pro-terrorism. Since most officials are corrupt, the investigators have concentrated on whose who still support the largely Sunni Arab Baath Party (which Saddam used to rule the country). About 500 former Baath officials were barred from running in the elections, but this was later reduced to under 200. Most Sunni Arabs still believe they will eventually regain control of the country, an attitude which annoys the 85 percent of the population who are not Sunni Arab. In response, the government is destroying many of the monuments put up by Saddam. More of these will disappear after the elections, despite Sunni Arab protests.