Iraq's national elections are Sunday, but polls opened early today for a handful of government employees. The elections will have significant consequences
for Iraq's immediate and long-term future, as well as U.S. plans for troop withdrawal
. But the early rounds of voting have been marred by
widespread violence in Baghdad, presumably meant to destabilize the
country and prevent turnout. Despite fears that bombings would lead to political deterioration
Iraq's fledgling democracy has so far endured. But that hasn't stopped
concerns that so much violence at such a pivotal moment could tip the
nation toward chaos.
- Defying the Violence The New York Times reports,
"Iraqi official and United States commanders have braced for violence,
imposing strict controls on vehicles and cordoning off entire streets
around polling sites. Thursday's attacks made it clear that security
gaps remained, but on the streets of Baghdad, where lines of soldiers
and police officers formed as soon as voting began at 7 a.m., there was
also a sense of defiance."
- Bombings Overstated An anonymous Iraqi political blogger scoffs at the hand-wringing.
"If you're watching TV to keep up on the election, you would think
we're all scared to death. As usual, the media exaggerate. It's a bit
noisy out there, but generally people are okay," he or she writes. "The
terrorists are still out to get the Iraqi people. They are by no means
thoughtful. They are out to murder in great numbers. But life goes on
here; we're not hiding under our beds -- at least not yet."
- Real Challenge Comes After Election Foreign Policy's Tom Ricks waves off
the bombings. "I think the current bombings in Iraq are simply an
attempt to scare people before this Sunday's election. They may get
media attention but don't seem to me necessarily to represent any
long-term trend," he writes. "The big question in my mind is what
happens in the three months after the election. How long will it take
to form a government? And will that process exacerbate ethnic and
sectarian tensions? If we don't see an Iraqi government by June 1, I
will be very concerned."
- Obama Must Recommit to Iraq The Economist insists
Iraq isn't ready to stand on its own without American help. "The
country has been devastated, in good part thanks to the miscalculations
of America and its Western allies. It is progressing shakily and still
needs outside help. And it is vital to the stability of the region. The
mission has by no means been accomplished."
- Could Complicate U.S. Withdrawal The New York Times' Helene Cooper and Mark Landler worry,
"Will parliamentary elections, scheduled for Sunday, throw the country
back into the sectarian strife that flared in 2004 and delay the
planned American withdrawal?" The authors say this would be a political
disaster for Obama back in the U.S. "For the Obama administration, the
best strategy could be to remind the Iraqis that they must conduct a
responsible election if they want a long-term relationship with the
- Violence Was Never Biggest Threat That honor belongs to Iraqi politicians, writes The Economist.
"Iraq's main problem is no longer its violence but its politics. Most
state institutions have failed to improve at the same rate as the
security forces. Occupying a temporary home since the defence ministry
requisitioned its building, Iraq's parliament is a glaring example.
Legislation barely moves through readings and committees. A
counter-terror law is 33rd on a list of 79 bills awaiting approval. A
much-needed hydrocarbons law regulating the oil industry is also
stalled, as are measures to sort out disputed internal borders."
- Cyclical Violence Is Inevitable Retired high-ranking CIA official Howard Hart isn't optimistic.
"Even if the elections themselves go fairly well, the record of the
past five or six years of political chaos and sectarian violence in
Iraq is dismal," he writes. "I think that civil war in Iraq seems very
likely - probably starting
well before the remainder of our non-combatant units have left at the
end of 2011."
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