It's been a long and difficult road to Iraq's third-ever national elections, held Sunday across the country. A constitutional crisis threatened to derail everything
, as did the relentless bombings
. But Iraqis came out, despite Sunday attacks that killed 36, in 55 to 60 percent turnout
. That's comparable to U.S. turnout, which was 56.8 percent
in 2008. Symbolically, it's an important step for Iraqi democracy,
sovereignty, and rule of law. But there's more to it than that. Here's
what made Iraq's elections so successful.
- Sunni Arabs Drop Guns to Vote
Despite widespread boycotts in 2005, Iraq's beleaguered Sunni Arab
minority--once the ruling class under Saddam Hussein--came out in
droves on Sunday. The New York Times' Anthony Shadid explains
that Sunnis look to be moving on from the anti-American violence of
years past. In Falluja, "the scratchy loudspeakers of muezzins that
once preached resistance to the American occupation implored Sunni
Arabs to defy bombs and vote Sunday." However, Shadid warns that Arab
Sunnis' virulent politics and anti-Iranian rhetoric could complicate
Iraq's already troubled political system.
- Iranian Influence Al Jazeera's Sam Sasan Shoamanesh writes
that, even if the U.S. and Iran disagree on almost everything, they
share a desire to leverage influence in Iraq to promote peace and
stability. "A stable Iraq, free from ethnic strife is in line with
Iran's national interests. The last thing Iran needs is a disintegrated
Iraq, with an energised surge of ethnic and sectarian clashes causing
havoc in the country, placing Iraq's territorial integrity at risk, and
producing a refugee flow to its borders."
- Iraqis Unite Across Sectarian Lines CENTCOM chief General David Petraeus tells Fareed Zakaria,
"Because all progress that has been made to date, all of the
legislation that's been passed and so forth, has all required cross
sectarian, cross ethnic coalitions, and I think that actually will
continue to be the case, because when you do the math, there's no way
that a prime minister will be elected without a cross sectarian and
indeed cross ethnic coalition developing to elect that individual and
the other key members that will be part of the package."
- U.S. Troops--Which Is Why They Should Stay The Daily Beast's Peter Beinart attributes
the successes to the American presence, warning, "If the president
sticks to his Iraq withdrawal timetable, this weekend's inspiring
democratic elections could be the country's last." Beinart says the
U.S. military wants to maintain a moderate presence--30,000 to 50,000
troops--in Iraq, and should get it. "The military has invested epic
quantities of money and blood in Iraq, and U.S. commanders don't want
it to be in vain. Plus, an Iraqi civil war that sucked in its
neighbors--as civil wars often do--would be horrendous. Although the
Democratic base wants out of Iraq, the lesson of Afghanistan is that
the military's view matters more."
- Iraqi Courage The Daily Telegraph marvels,
"There is something moving about the sight of people queuing to vote in
countries which have been racked by violence ... Iraq's politicians
now have to prove themselves worthy of the new mandate granted them by
a courageous electorate."
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