Tuesday, December 20, 2005

US hopes of secular Iraqi state fade away

I personally had no hope. The Sunnis, the shiites, who gives a shiite. Until this administration takes a hard and real look at Islam, these disappointments despite the US' best efforts are inevitable. Maybe it will turn out better, but Islam is so dominant. It's in all their heads, they live and breathe that jaundice of the brain everyday.

US hopes of secular Iraqi state fade away
By Paul McGeough Chief Herald Correspondent in Baghdad
December 21, 2005

CONSERVATIVE religious parties have surged to a runaway lead in the counting of votes to appoint a government to run Iraq for the next four years.

With more than 60 per cent of votes tallied, Washington's hopes that the former prime minister Iyad Allawi might pull enough support to build a secular administration have faded dramatically.

Instead, a religious alliance is in the box seat. These parties are already imposing a strict religious code on daily life across swathes of the country and are closely aligned with neighbouring Iran, one of George Bush's "axis of evil" enemies.

The religious Shiites and the Kurdish parties have maintained their iron grip on the south and north respectively, but with 89 per cent of votes counted in the Baghdad melting pot, both Dr Allawi and his arch rival and one-time Pentagon darling, Ahmed Chalabi, face marginalisation.

Amid claims of electoral fraud, it seems the religious Shiites are assured of dominating the new National Assembly, but not of the two-thirds majority needed for a series of major decisions on the shape of the new government or the fate of the new Iraq.

It is an outcome that signals a repeat of the protracted post-poll horse-trading that robbed the fractured country of most of the momentum won by the conduct of its first democratic elections in January, when millions of jubilant Iraqis stared down threats of insurgency violence.

Dr Allawi's best chance of forming a government now hangs on his ability to draw Sunni and Kurdish support for his secular coalition, but observers believe he would still need to split the religious Shiites, an unlikely outcome in the wake of his meagre showing and their apparent triumph in Thursday's poll.

Iraq's Sunnis turned out in dramatic numbers last week, but the Iraqi Electoral Commission is yet to release provisional figures for provinces in which they are the majority. But Baghdad's Sunnis threw their support behind a Sunni religious coalition whose leaders have called for resistance to the American military presence and demanded that the US fix a timetable for withdrawal.

Despite a concerted campaign push by secular and non-Shiite parties in Baghdad, the main Shiite coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, grabbed 59 per cent of the provisional tally. Trailing it, with 19 per cent, is the main religious Sunni Arab party slate, the Iraqi Consensus Front.

Dr Allawi's secular coalition, the Iraqi List, scored 14 per cent and way behind was Dr Chalabi, whose paltry vote in the capital, less than 0.5 per cent, could deny him a slot in the first round of seat allocation in the new assembly.

Sunni parties are expected to win up to 55 seats in the parliament. But the religious Shiites have yet to indicate if they will be invited into the new government and, if so, whether they will be heard on the vital issues that separate them: regional autonomy, sharing Iraq's potentially vast oil revenue and the role of Islam in the law.

There is a risk that if the Sunnis are stonewalled in the parliament they will continue their material and moral support for the insurgency, making it even more difficult for Washington to make significant troop withdrawals before next November's US mid-term elections.

But as the country and Washington started to factor in the poll's affirmation of Iraq's deep religious and ethnic divisions, insurgents who had backed off in the days around the election returned to the fray.

A series of bombings and shoot-outs rocked the capital as Iraqis confronted another harsh economic reality: a threefold increase in the price of petrol on the back of a declaration by the Government that it could no longer afford to subsidise costly fuel imports to an oil-rich nation that has yet to find its feet.


Iran Watch said...

This was inevitable. I thought from the very beginning that we would be looking at a theocracy in Iraq. Worst of all is that it will be under the influence of Iran.

American Crusader said...

I don't see the Kurds or the Sunnis allowing themselves to live under Shi'ite domination. As soon as the United States leaves the country will be split apart by Civil War. The only good thing is that competing Islamist groups will be fighting each other once their common enemy has left. If these election results stand, it's time to start packing. If they elect a theocracy, how can we stop them? Being democratic doesn't mean being smart. France once elected in a procommunist government's(Mitterand) and the English were once practically a socialist country (and in some ways still are).