Iraqi legislators have set a date
for elections in 2010, ending a lengthy political crisis that threatened
to derail the country's gradual steps toward stable democracy. Iraqi
lawmakers had fought over how to distribute political representation to
Kirkuk, an oil-rich city in Northern Iraq that underwent considerable demographic shifts since the 2003 invasion. The resolution
is seen as a political victory for both Iraqis and Americans. It allows
the timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops to progress. Elected representatives will select a prime
minister, which means current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has a
significant stake in the political dispute over the elections, now
scheduled for Jan. 21, 2010.
- Iraq Demonstrates Independent Governance Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch praises
Obama's handling of the Iraqi election. "The deal getting done is
clearly good news -- and demonstrates that
overall Obama's Iraqi strategy is going well even if it doesn't get
much attention," he writes, dismissing the "technical" details that he
says will be ironed out. "Those costs arguably pale beside the larger
point that Iraqis largely
reached this deal on their own, without intense American
micro-management, under the shadow of a clear commitment to U.S.
- 'Genuine Arab Democracy' The Washington Posts's Jackson Diehl compares
the resolution to the fall of the Berlin Wall, applauding, "Painfully,
haltingly but steadily, Iraq’s political leaders are building the
Middle East’s first genuine Arab democracy," he writes. "Four years ago
Iraqi Sunnis mostly boycotted the parliamentary
elections; three years ago Sunni and Shiite were slaughtering each
other in a virtual civil war. Now Iraq stands a good chance of forming
a democratically elected government that will span sectarian divisions."
- Obama's Missed Opportunity Bush Administration official Kori Schake thinks President Obama is missing a big opportunity in an Iraqi ally. "This is a huge step
forward in the democratization of Iraq; what a pity our own government sees it
largely in terms of facilitating our withdrawal from the country," she writes. "Passage of the election law and
the positive political dynamic that has Iraqis opting in to political wrangling
as the means of addressing their disputes bodes very well for Iraq's future. What is less clear is whether the
Obama administration understands the value of a long-term strategic partnership
with a democratic Iraq that will be the lodestar of representative government
in the Middle East. On the basis statements made by the president and
Ambassador Hill, I believe they do not. Instead of playing the end game
of our military presence in Iraq in ways that stabilize Iraq and make us a
valuable long-term partner, the administration seems only to see the value of
getting out of Iraq."
Could Cause Arab-Kurd Tension Juan Cole explains
why the nature of the resolution could be a source of tension between
the two ethnic groups. "The Kurdistan Alliance scored a major victory
insofar as the law agrees
to use the 2009 voting rolls for the polls in Kirkuk Province. [...]
Kurdistan wishes to incorporate into itself a fourth province, oil-rich
Kirkuk, which has a mixed population of Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs.
Turkmen and Arabs on the whole do not wish to become part of Kurdistan.
[...] Arabs and Turkmen also charge that the current voting rolls are
fraudulent names, as Kurds have attempted to pack the registration
list," he writes. "Some members of parliament objected to a provision
Iraqi outside their own original places of residence are not allowed to
vote. Given the ethnic cleansing of so many Sunni Arabs of Baghdad and
environs this provision probably hurts the Sunni Arab parties."
- Much Could Still Go Wrong Joost Hiltermann outlines
in the New York Review of Books the many ways this could still fall
apart. "Just as [top U.S. General in Iraq Raymond] Odierno will be
pulling out his first combat brigades, starting
in March, Iraq will be entering into a period of fractious wrangling
over the formation of a new government. If Iraqi national forces fail
to impose their control, an absence of political leadership could thus
coincide with a collapse in security; if politicians and their allied
militias resort to violence, the state, including its intelligence
apparatus so critical for maintaining internal stability, could
fracture along political, ethnic, and sectarian lines."
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