In two months, elections are scheduled to take place in Iraq. What will they bring? Two recent articles offer interesting perspectives into this questions.
From counterpunch.com, Ron Jacobs offers some conspiracy-like theories regarding recent assassinations of Sunni clerics who want elections postponed. He alleges these people were assassinated either by Allawi or by the US ambassador John Negroponte, reasoning "only if Allawi and his circle can maintain some kind of dominant role in the 'elected' Iraqi government that Washington will be able to achieve its primary goals in Iraq."1 Jacobs offers no evidence for this claim beyond claiming that Negroponte used similar measures while ambassador to Honduras, so I am not inclined to believe these allegations. Nevertheless, his point that the US has historically used extremely nefarious and counterproductive means to prop up governments it can control is well taken. If Iraq is to be a viable nation in the future, the US must re-examine if the ends justify the means. If free elections occur in Iraq and the US does not allow the elected government to dictate policy, then the situation in Iraq will become even worse.
Juan Cole, writing in Electronic Iraq, also discusses the elections. He outlines how they will never be successful without full participation by the three major groups in Iraq. If Sunnis do not participate in the framing of a new constitution, then any new government will never be legitimate. If Sunnis boycott the elections, Shiites will have a disproportionately large control of the political process, Sunnis will object, and the insurgency will not stop. He writes, "It isn't that the government is elected that lends stability, but rather widespread acceptance of the government's legitimacy. The Sunnis are unlikely to grant that if they end up being woefully underrepresented. And then you will just have to reconquer Fallujah again next year."2
The US and Iraqi government need to find some way to convince everyone to join the political process. I do not believe, however, that additional troops are the answer. Escalating the military presence to 150,000 will do nothing to secure the region. Sunni cleric Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, according to Juan Cole, asserted "that there can be no legitimate elections under the shadow of foreign occupation."2 This statement's implications are profound, since compliance with it would require that the US leave Iraq in tatters, which does not seem like a viable option. On the otherhand, imagine if elections were held in the US with armed troops from a country you despised were on every corner. Would we consider elections under such conditions legitimate?
1Ron Jacobs. Elections and Death Squads: The Mysterious Murders of the ASM Clerics. Counterpunch.com. November 27, 2004. <http://www.counterpunch.com/jacobs11272004.html>
2Juan Cole. Dead Wrong on the Iraqi Elections. Electronic Iraq, 3 December 2004. <http://electroniciraq.net/news/1740.shtml>