Saturday, January 15, 2005

Ayad Allawi was handpicked by Washington as prime minister, but to stay in office he must get majority support in the parliament that will be elected in two weeks. That won't be easy. Allawi is running on a ticket that's likely to be trumped by a rival one supported by Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric. And that ticket has its own candidate for the coveted prime minister spot - a French-educated finance minister whose party has managed the difficult task of staying on good terms with both Iran and its nemesis, the United States. (AP)

The Iraqi defense minister Hazem al-Shalan said that the Iraqi elections will be incomplete without the participation of the Sunnis who call for postponing the elections. (Arabic News)

Iraqis in two of the country's most troubled provinces will be permitted to register and vote on the day of elections, the head of Iraq's electoral commission said Saturday. Commission Chairman Abdul-Hussein Hendawi also said he expected a same-day preliminary vote count. Tallying final results from the Jan. 30 elections could take as long as 10 days. (AP)

In an apparent bid to head off car bombings on election day, Iraqi authorities will restrict the use of automobiles throughout the country and will place security cordons around polling stations, a Cabinet minister said Saturday. Provincial Affairs minister Waeil Abdel-Latif also pledged that the government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi would provide adequate security for voters on Jan. 30, but he acknowledged that the security situation in four of the country's 18 provinces was unstable. (AP)

The top Islamic scholar of the highest Sunni institute called on Iraqis to participate in the Jan. 30 elections, a Saudi newspaper reported Saturday. The official al-Riyadh daily quoted Sheikh Mohammad Tantawi, the head of the Cairo-based al-Azhar, as saying all Iraqis should take part in the general elections in order to form a legitimate government and retrieve Iraqi sovereignty and independence. (UPI via Washington Times)

Iraq's impending elections threaten to create a Shiite axis that will bring Iranian extremism to Baghdad and endanger the Mideast. That's the warning of both Israelis and Jordan's King Abdullah, who recently tried and failed to convince the United States to postpone the Jan. 30 vote. (New York Post)

Kurdish parties have reached a tentative deal to call off a threatened boycott of elections in the oil-rich region around Kirkuk after Iraq's electoral board granted displaced Kurds the right to vote. "The Kurds have decided to participate in the vote after we settled the problem of displaced Kurds. They will be allowed to vote in Kirkuk," said Farid Ayar, the spokesman for Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission. (AFP via Kurdistan Observer)

Christian Iraqis in the United States claim they are being effectively shut out of the planned Jan. 30 election for a new government in Baghdad at a time when their community faces murderous violence and discrimination back home. Jacklin Bejan, a spokeswoman for the Chaldean-Assyrian-American Advocacy Council, said the decision by election organizers to set up just one polling station west of the Mississippi — in Los Angeles — means that tens of thousands of eligible voters will not be able to register or vote. (Washington Times)

editorial/opinion round-up

Zeyad of the blog Healing Iraq gives us an update on the election lists (parties), possibility of civil war, and other election-related issues.

William Lind: Election magic in Iraq. Take a "state" with no functional institutions, a "government" that is a gang of rip-off artists and foreign hirelings, more religious and clan divisions than Arkansas and Fourth Generation war spreading like crabgrass. All you have to do is hold "elections," and Presto!, a real state emerges. Peace reigns triumphant, American troops can go home and secular democracy has converted another flea-bitten, flyblown Third World hellhole into Switzerland. This election magic is supposed to work its wonders in Iraq after the voting there on Jan. 30. But what is actually likely to happen? (UPI via Washington Times)

The Japan Times: Bad options in Iraq. With elections scheduled to take place in less than three weeks, the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate. There are real doubts that a national vote can be held, a prospect that would seriously -- if not fatally -- undermine the legitimacy of the resulting government. Nonetheless, the United States and the existing Iraqi government remain committed to holding the vote as scheduled. Friends and supporters of democracy in Iraq face a dangerous dilemma: Whether to proceed with elections, though flawed they may be, or to postpone them and, by doing so, encourage extremists to inflame conditions further.

Analysis: It'll soon be time, at last, to vote. Though the election will be boycotted by many or even most Sunni Arabs, it should still offer Kurds and Shia Arabs a rare chance to choose their own leaders. At least in those parts of Iraq where the insurgents do not dominate, the election campaign has begun in earnest. Posters plaster the walls, at any rate in the Shia and Kurdish areas that contain a good three-quarters of the country's people. And though full lists of candidates' names are hard to find—and in some cases have yet to be drawn up (see our table)—Iraqis are gradually becoming aware of the main choices of party alliances and leaders on offer when some 5,500 polling stations open on January 30th. (The Economist)

Friday, January 14, 2005

US govt. / UN roundup

The upcoming elections in Iraq are not a “pivotal point” -- but they are the beginning of a process moving toward constitutional government, according to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. The violence is likely to continue long after the January 30 elections, Armitage told National Public Radio’s (NPR) Morning Edition January 14. He went on to say that different ethnic and religious communities within the country have resisted being drawn into civil war. “I think that shows the vast majority of Iraqis consider themselves Iraqis first and then Shia or Sunni or Turkoman or Chaldean or Syrian or Kurd latterly,” he said. (US Dept. of State)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq’s upcoming parliamentary elections are an important moment for the Iraqi people and will help to reduce the insurgency in the country. Appearing on CNN’s Larry King LIve January 13, Powell said the January 30 elections will provide Iraqis with an opportunity to “make a judgment as to what kind of leadership they want to see in the future.” “This will be their government,” Powell said, “and when it becomes their government, then they have a vested interest in it, and I think that will help us with the insurgency.” (US Dept. of State)

The progress of the Iraqi security forces in the four provinces of the north means that the election Jan. 30 "will be an election for Iraqis, run by Iraqis," a top military commander said here today. Maj. Gen. John Batiste, commander of the Army's 1st Infantry Division and the coalition's Multinational Division North-Central, told reporters here and at the Pentagon that his area is ready for elections. (US Dept. of Defense)

Troops from Multinational Force Iraq [acronym alert: MNFI] are working to ensure every Iraqi who wants to vote has the chance to do so in the Jan. 30 election. The election is "a high stakes" event for the Iraqi people and for the coalition, said a senior MNFI official. "This is the first democratic election since the state of Iraq was established in 1928," said the official. "I guess you could really say it's the first election in this part of Iraq in 5,000 years." (US Dept. of Defense)

[refresh of earlier Annan-remarks article, this time from the UN themselves] With barely two weeks left before Iraq holds elections for a provisional national assembly which will appoint a new government and write a constitution, top United Nations officials today called for the poll to be as inclusive as possible despite the adverse conditions of violence in the war-wracked country. "I have always made clear that the elections must be as inclusive as possible if, as I hope, they are to contribute positively to the political transition in Iraq," Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a news conference in Mauritius, where he attended a conference on small island developing States. (United Nations)

Radical Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr urged US President George W. Bush and Iraq's neighbours Friday not to interfere with the January 30 general elections. "This affair is none of your business," the young Shiite leader said, addressing Bush in a Friday sermon read by one of his representatives at a mosque in his Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City. (AFP via

[article on overall subject of election legitimacy] Ralf Dahrendorf: Can elections alone guarantee legitimacy? Ukraine's results have thrown up many questions regarding the popular vote. (Financial Express)

Sunni Muslim militants claimed responsibility Friday for the assassination of a community leader promoting the election on behalf of Iraq's top Shiite cleric, and three U.S. troops were killed. A U.S. commander acknowledged that an insurgent campaign of violence and intimidation may keep some people from voting in parts of Baghdad. (AP via The Guardian [UK])

Gunmen killed an Iraqi election official as he left his polling station in western Baghdad. He was at least the seventh election worker killed in the run-up to national elections on January 30. Attackers in a passing car shot Abdul Karim Jassem Al-Ubeidi as he headed home last night, police Captain Imad Thamir said. (

Gunmen killed three officials of a leading Kurdish political party in an ambush in the volatile northern city of Mosul, another official of the party said Friday. (AP)

In Baghdad cafe debate, elections win. For some, the vote itself is what counts. In Shahbandar, a storied Baghdad cafe whose name evokes a time (the past) and a milieu (the highbrow), three men sat over cigarettes and hourglass cups of sweet tea Thursday and debated what the coming elections meant for a country scarred by three decades of tyranny, war and bitter disillusionment. [...] (Washington Post via MSNBC)

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday that conditions for elections in Iraq were "far from ideal" and Iraqi officials should intensify efforts to make the vote inclusive. "It is clear that the vast majority of Iraqis are eager to exercise their democratic right to vote," Annan told journalists in Mauritius. "But it is equally obvious that the conditions in which the election is being held are far from ideal." (AP)

Ralph Peters: IS Iraq ready to hold perfect, orderly, all-inclusive elections? Of course not. But by the unfair standards critics are raising, the United States might not qualify for nation-wide balloting, either. Iraq's elections are going to be deadly, disorderly and deeply flawed. And they will still be the most open and authentic elections ever held in the Arab world. Anyone who needs proof of the importance of these polls need only look at the ferocity and duplicity of those intent on delaying or preventing them. (New York Post)

Nicholas Rothwell: Amid the daily turbulence and chaos plaguing Iraq as the country's date with electoral democracy looms, a set of disturbing trends is becoming clear. Not only do the Iraqi interim Government and senior US officials concede that elections will be imperfect, and that security cannot be guaranteed on polling day across a quarter of the nation, but the vote itself appears to be dragging Iraq closer to civil war. (The Australian)

James Klurfeld: Sometimes it's worthwhile to pause for a moment and listen to the guy who says the glass is one-quarter full. Such is the view of Special Envoy Robert Blackwill, who had been the administration's man in Iraq for much of the last six months. Blackwill, writing in The Wall Street Journal last week, argued that the "boom factor" - an epidemic of bombings in the Sunni triangle - is not the right way to measure what is happening there now and, more important, what will happen in the future. (Newsday)

Dr. Allawi's Iraqi List (vaguely like a political party) in Arabic, and his Top 5 Pledges to the Iraqi People (in English).

Farid Ayar, HIEC vice-president, is responsbile for public relations for the forthcoming Iraqi elections on 30 January. Surrounded by election brochures in an office in Baghdad, he spoke to IRIN in the Iraqi capital about preparations for the historic poll, addressing security issues and voting plans. (IRIN via

An Iraqi Turkmen party Thursday threatened to boycott the January 30 elections in the conflict-torn country unless Kurds in northern Iraq put an end to "games" to influence the outcome of the vote in Kirkuk, the oil-rich city which both communities claim. "We will be forced to reconsider our decision to participate in the elections... if the election structure and arrangements are continously tinkered with," a statement issued by the Ankara office of the Iraqi Turkmen Front (ITC) said. (AFP via Kurditan Observer)

About half of Iraq’s 15 million voters are likely to participate in this month’s election, a senior election official said in one of the first such estimates of possible turnout. To encourage as much participation as possible, Iraqis living in dangerous areas will be allowed to vote in safer areas, the official said. Farid Ayar of Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission said he expected seven to eight million Iraqis to vote on Jan. 30. (Khaleej Times)

Opinion: The second Palestinian presidential election in history ended on Sunday and pragmatic and moderate Mahmoud Abbas was elected the new chairman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA). Now another election is due to take place, in Iraq. People in the world can not help but ask whether or not the forthcoming election, which has similarly drawn worldwide attention, will also bring a light of hope for peace to the violence-torn Arab country. (CHINA Daily via XINHUA online)

Robin Cook: Hold the elections, then get out. Most of our partners in Iraq are preparing to leave. We should too. (The Guardian [UK])

David Roach: Despite challenges, Iraq elections seen as step to democracy. While Iraq’s first multi-party parliamentary election in 50 years is scheduled to take place Jan. 30, a host of logistical, political, military and religious issues complicate the election process and raise questions as to whether Iraq will be able to sustain a democratically elected government, according to various news sources. (BP News)

Thursday, January 13, 2005

From the BBC:

Q&A on Iraq elections. Good overall summary of how the elections will work. Answers the following questions: How will this election work? What powers will the Assembly have? When will there be a fully constitutional government? What about security? Who is likely to win? Will Iraqis living abroad be allowed to vote? What about the foreign troops?

Iraq election at-a-glance. The key dates. Purpose of the vote. Parties and candidates. The registration process. The day itself. Foreign forces and observers.

Paul Reynolds: While the world's attention has been on the disaster in Asia, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated so much that the insurgency has developed into near-open warfare.

Gunmen killed the director of a Baghdad election center Thursday, another in a series of attacks targeting election officials and candidates as the vote set for January 30 approaches. Baghdad police, who reported the slaying, did not release the director's name. He was in charge of an election center in the al-Khadoumiyah neighborhood in the northern part of Baghdad.

Also on Thursday, the Democratic Islamic Party announced Iraqi presidential candidate Mithal al-Alousi was targeted for the second time in two weeks. Al-Alousi said an explosion went off on the second floor of his home just as the lights were turned on in those rooms. No one was injured. Police believe a grenade was thrown through the window of the house. (CNN)

Iraq's electoral commission on Thursday detailed what would be considered crimes during this month's election process, ranging from carrying weapons in or around polling stations to forgeries and bribes. (AP)

With elections less than three weeks away, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is spending much of his tenure's final days wooing Iraqis and reassuring them of his ability to lead this nation fatigued by war and terror. It could be a tough sell. (AP)

U.S. Sees No Advantage in Delaying Iraqi Elections. Delaying Iraq's elections beyond Jan. 30 would give insurgents a tactical victory and provide no guarantee that security there would improve, Bush administration officials said on Wednesday. "We want to make sure that there is as broad participation as possible in those elections. I think we all recognize that the election is not going to be perfect," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan. (Reuters via Washington Post)

French President Jacques Chirac lent his support to the electoral process in Iraq, wishing his Iraqi counterpart Ghazi al-Yawar success for the January 30 polls and urging huge voter turnout. After talks with Chirac aimed at repairing ties that have been strained for months, Yawar in turn said Baghdad would do everything possible to locate a French journalist who went missing in Iraq more than a week ago. (AFP via

The price of voting in Iraq's Mosul. Every possible contingency, including suicide bombers blowing themselves up inside polling booths, is being examined by the US military in this restive city as the election countdown begins. Short of escorting people from their homes to the ballot boxes, US soldiers are doing everything they can to make sure the situation is sufficiently under control for residents of this city of some 1.5 million to vote in the landmark Iraqi elections on January 30. (AFP via

Iraqis living in Britain will be able to vote in their country's elections at polling stations in Glasgow, Manchester, London and Cardiff, Jack Straw has said. The Foreign Secretary told the Cabinet this morning that ballot boxes would be made available for the Jan 30 poll. (

Roland Flamini: International observers are likely to be conspicuously absent at Iraq elections on Jan. 30 because of the security situation, and the task of monitoring the voting will be left to some 5,000 specially trained Iraqi electoral officials. The U.N.-sponsored International Mission for the Iraq Elections says it will follow developments from a safe distance in Amman, Jordan and Canada. (UPI via Washington Times)

Thomas Friedman: Follow Friedman's rules: Hold Iraqi elections now. In trying to think through whether we should press ahead with elections in Iraq or not, I have found it useful to go back and dig out my basic rules for Middle East reporting, which I have developed and adapted over 25 years of writing from that region. (Houston Chronicle)

Due to the grim security situation in Iraq, more political parties and individuals have withdrawn from the landmark elections due on Jan. 30. According to the Al Furat newspaper, 53 political parties and organizations as well as 30 individuals have asked their names to be dropped from the election lists in a bid to show their rejection of elections under US occupation. The coalition said the announcement was also in protest against the US detention of the alliance's leader Hassan Zeidan Khalaf al-Lihebi. (XINHUA online)

A credible democratic election in Iraq, resulting in a government that is reflective of the Iraqis' will, should help improve the security situation, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell, because the Iraqi people know it's their government that's being assaulted not an appointed government. Powell spoke about the upcoming elections in interviews with National Public Radio's Juan Williams and Fox Television's Sean Hannity January 12. (US Embassy in Tokyo)
[transcript of Powell's remarks on NPR and Fox News are included in the article]

The Bush administration will consider the results of Iraq's elections credible even if most of the country's Sunni Muslim minority don't show up to vote Jan. 30, an administration official said Wednesday. "If people decide to boycott an election, that's their choice," said Michael Kozak, acting assistant secretary of State for democracy, human, rights and labor. "You can decide not to go to the polls. But then you have no one to blame but yourself." (USA Today)

Under Fire, Election Workers in Iraq Are Scared but Resolute. There are mysterious knocks on his door at night. His friends ask him not to visit. He declines to allow even his first name to be published. This shadowy figure, a young Sunni Muslim from Baghdad, is neither spy nor criminal. He is an election worker helping Iraq prepare for its historic national poll, scheduled for the end of the month. [...] (New York Times)

[summary of the current situation] Time Magazine: Iraq's Imperfect Election

Jim Hoagland: If one political lesson above all can be drawn from the 20th century, it must be that no nation is ever "owned" by another. Decolonization, the breakup of the Soviet empire, America's defeat in Vietnam, the Palestinian intifada and other events speak authoritatively and clearly on this. So it is both glib and pernicious to propagate the notion that the United States has "broken" Iraq and therefore "owns" it. You do not need Pottery Barn to tell you this is a policy that neither large corporations nor superpowers can enforce. (Washington Post)

A Sunni tribal coalition said Wednesday it would withdraw from Iraq's landmark elections due on Jan. 30 unless it is postponed until security improves. The Patriotic Front for Iraqi Tribes said the announcement was also in protest against the US detention of the alliance's leader. Hassan Zeidan Khalaf al-Lihebi, a former general serving in Saddam Hussein's army but having retired before the US-ledinvasion, was detained by the American forces last week. The US army had no comment on the capture. (XINHUA online)

Edwin Black: Iraq's proposed elections later this month are a lose-lose proposition. Most Sunni and Kurdish political parties have either formally withdrawn or are threatening to because the insurgency has now targeted the entire electoral process. That reality has been driven home daily. Last month, a grenade was tossed into a school with a note warning the building to not become a polling place. Weeks ago, an election commissioner on Baghdad's main street was dragged from his car in broad daylight and shot in the head by men who didn't even mask their faces. (Newsday)

[letter to the editor] David Llewellyn: Future of Iraq after elections. Whilst much of current planning in Iraq seems to place great store on the result of the elections scheduled for the end of January, one can easily envisage the elections having to be postponed, or their results, should they go ahead on time, being anything but helpful. (The Times [UK])

Seumas Milne: This election could plunge Iraq further into the abyss. Rigged polls held under foreign occupation have a notorious pedigree. (The Guardian [UK])

Hani Lazim: George Bush and Tony Blair say the elections scheduled for the end of this month will bring democracy to Iraq. But the democracy they are talking about is the rule of the occupiers under the cover of an elected Iraqi assembly. (Socialist Worker [UK])

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Ali over at Free Iraqi blogs about Elections, and related fears.

Hoping to boost Iraq election voting, the United States is setting up polling places in five American cities - Washington, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Nashville - to give expatriates a voice in choosing an interim assembly in Baghdad. Some 240,000 Iraqis, who under Iraqi law include people with Iraqi fathers, are eligible to register Jan. 17-23 and then return to the polling places to vote Jan. 28-30, a State Department official said Wednesday. (AP)

Related, Election Officials Reach Out to Expatriate Iraqi Voters. Election administrators in charge of out-of-country voting (OCV) for the upcoming Iraqi elections are reaching out to expatriate Iraqis through media outlets, community organizations and the Internet as the voter registration period approaches. “We rely very much on media, on community leaders to give us help disseminating the message to voters,” says Svetlana Galinka, head of voter education for the OCV program in the United States. (US Dept. of State)

Troops from Multinational Force Iraq are working to ensure every Iraqi who wants to vote has the chance to do so in the Jan. 30 election. The election is "a high stakes" event for the Iraqi people and for the coalition, said a senior MNFI official. "This is the first democratic election since the state of Iraq was established in 1928," said the official. "I guess you could really say it's the first election in this part of Iraq in 5,000 years." (US Dept. of Defense)

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in remarks published on Wednesday that elections would go ahead as planned on January 30 but conceded there would be problems in ensuring a nationwide vote. (new kerala [India])

Secret ballots are the cornerstone of any democratic process. But little more than two weeks before Iraq's first free elections on Jan. 30, the country is finding that secrecy is being taken to new heights. The identities of many of the candidates haven't been publicly disclosed and are likely to remain secret until after election day, an illustration of the difficulty in mounting an election amid war. (Christian Science Monitor) [an Iraqi blogger commented on this several days ago. hunting for that link. -ed]

Iraq's Jan. 30 elections are likely to be "less than perfect" due to violence but the United States is working with Iraq to encourage the broadest possible participation, the White House said on Wednesday. The United States has cautioned that guerrilla action in four of 18 Iraqi provinces could disrupt voting in Iraq, but has rejected appeals from Sunni politicians that the elections be postponed because of attacks from Sunni Arab insurgents who are escalating bombings and assassinations to sabotage the national ballot. (Reuters)

The Iraqi elections should be held as scheduled on Jan. 30 and with the participation of all sectors of Iraqi community, visiting Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said here Wednesday. Fini, on a two-day visit to Jordan, told a press conference that he hoped the Iraqi elections would be a starting point for a new phase of freedom and democracy in the war-torn country. "Our existence in Iraq is limited to humanitarian purposes," the minister said, reiterating Italy did not take part in the war against Iraq. (XINHUA online)

Opinion: Karim Khutar Almusawi, the representative in Washington of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party: Delaying Iraq's Elections Would Turn Back the Clock to Violence and Fear. With only a little more than two weeks to go before Jan. 30, there are still some people who want to postpone the Iraqi elections. But that would be a terrible mistake. (LA Times)

Iraqi Elections Worry Some Conservatives. At age 79, Brent Scowcroft doesn't have much to lose if he speaks his mind. So despite his close ties to the first President Bush, he's not averse to keeping his distance from the second. [ed: this story doesn't appear to add much to the previously-linked-to Scowcroft story] (AP)

Suleyman Kurt: 'Exclude PKK Political Groups From Iraqi Polls'. Although no decision was made regarding a military operation against the terrorist organization Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) taking shelter in northern Iraq, at a "three-way security meeting" attended by Turkey, Iraq, and the US in Ankara, a consensus was reached to cooperate on three issues. (Zaman Daily [Turkey])

US analysts and officials predicted Tuesday, January 11, the coming controversial Iraqi polls to lead to more chaos and instability, with some calling for a necessary delay of the January 30 polls. Heavyweights like former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former national security advisor Brent Scowscroft, and Larry Diamond, a former adviser to the now-defunct US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, have drawn a bleak picture for Iraq after the polls, in sharp contrast to what the US administration is selling to the public. (Islam Online [UK])

Editorial: Facing facts about Iraq's elections. When the United States was debating whether to invade Iraq, there was one outcome that everyone agreed had to be avoided at all costs: a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that would create instability throughout the Middle East and give terrorists a new, ungoverned region that they could use as a base of operations. The coming elections - long touted as the beginning of a new, democratic Iraq - are looking more and more like the beginning of that worst-case scenario. It's time to talk about postponing the vote. (New York Times via International Herald Tribune)

"It is a matter of saving Iraq from dipping into a major constitutional crisis by holding the elections on Jan. 30 as planned," Fareed Ayar, spokesman of Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, said Tuesday. As the war-scarred country braces for the first elections after the Iraq War, the technical electoral body, assigned with a mission to organize the polls, is running against time to make the elections smooth. The only way to serve the Iraqi people and the country is "to try our best to bring forward all the necessary requirements for the process," Ayar said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone. (XINHUA online)

Two Iraq cities await elections, Fallujah and Sadr City. (USA Today)

World oil prices rose Tuesday in cautious trade ahead of Iraqi general elections and a meeting of OPEC, feared to be considering an output cut. [...] Traders were awaiting both the Iraqi elections and a meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, each falling on January 30, the analyst said. [...] (

Iraqi bloggers

Omar from Iraq The Model: A civil war? With the elections' day getting closer, I'm hearing more voices warning of the possibility of a civil war in Iraq after the elections and I want to say that I do not find that theory the least acceptable; the theory of the civil war doesn't match any of the facts on the ground and it's based on visions of people who have never lived among Iraqis and have no real-if any-experience in the region. The coming days will be a test for these theories but I'm almost positive that nothing like that is going to happen and so I don't need to wait to find out.

Ali from Free Iraqi: What after the elections? Amid all the expectations and fears about the upcoming elections in Iraq, one cannot but ask, "What if the election worked but the violence persisted? Then what? What are we going to do after that?" Some people think the elections will answer all these questions while others think it won't change anything and that the war against terror in Iraq is lost anyway. This piece at Andrew Sullivan's is a good example of the perspective of those who think the war is lost and I can't help but offer "my two cents".

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Iraq: Winning the Unwinnable War

James Dobbins, Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand: Iraq: Winning the Unwinnable War. By losing the trust of the Iraqi people, the Bush administration has already lost the war. Moderate Iraqis can still win it, but only if they wean themselves from Washington and get support from elsewhere. To help them, the United States should reduce and ultimately eliminate its military presence, train Iraqis to beat the insurgency on their own, and rally Iran and European allies to the cause. (Foreign Affairs Jan/Feb 2005) [fairly long, 4 pages]

[...] Within Iraq, the most pressing issue is when and how to stage the national elections currently planned for January. [...] Assuming elections do occur, the new government will emerge with only modestly enhanced legitimacy. Shiites and Kurds may be adequately represented, but the Sunnis will not be. [...]

Taking a pessimistic view, a senior Jordanian diplomat on Tuesday questioned the validity of the elections Iraq is due to hold at the end of the month if many Iraqis do not vote. More than 40 percent of Iraqis will be unable to participate in electing an interim assembly, said Karim Kawar, Jordan's ambassador to the United States, adding, "This raises questions about the authenticity of the elections." (AP)

And several opinion pieces:

David Brooks: Iraq vote opens way to succeed. Is there any way this can still work? Is there any plausible scenario for how Iraq can turn into a functioning society? These are the questions I've been throwing at government officials, military analysts and other wise heads over the past few weeks. Their answers, both uplifting and depressing, suggest that if we are lucky, the near future in Iraq will come in three phases. (New York Times)

Mort Kondracke: As Iraq's Jan. 30 elections approach, a dense gloom is descending over public attitudes about U.S. prospects in Iraq. But the Bush administration is right to push for the elections to take place on time. A delay would only reward the savage insurgents who want to reduce Iraq to utter chaos. What really counts is what happens after the election - whether majority Shiites treat minority Sunnis well and whether the Iraqi security forces fight for their country. (RealClearPolitics)

Tod Lindberg: Great Iraqi expectations. Would-be tyrants and freedom fighters alike take note: The essence of democracy is not simply an election. It's an election held in the expectation that there will be a subsequent election. In a mature democracy during election season, each side campaigns as hard as it can. But each side does so in the knowledge that, win or lose, victory or defeat is subject to reversal at the polls in the next election. You win some, you lose some. (Washington Times)

Ralph Peters: When democracy fails. Democracy is the most humane and desirable form of government yet devised by humankind. From Afghanistan to Ukraine, democracy's recent successes have exceeded expectations. It deserves American support wherever it has a chance of taking hold. The problem is that it doesn't always work. (USA Today)

Excerpts from Bush WSJ interview

The Wall Street Journal has kindly made excerpts of their interview with President Bush freely available.

Though the interview touches on a myriad of issues, the elections in Iraq are mentioned more than once. A WSJ summary of the interview precedes the excerpts themselves (excerpts italicized).

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi admitted that some parts of Iraq would not be able to take part in elections in three weeks' time as deadly strikes killed at least 20 people, six of them in a car bombing in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit. [...] As the clock ticked down to polling day on January 30, sectarian tensions entered the campaign with the prime minister's Iraqi National Accord party crying foul over the alleged use of religion by Shiite politicians. The INA lodged a formal complaint against the Shiite joint list, the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA), for violating state law by using religion in its advertising. [...] (

[more details on Egypt meeting] Egypt on Tuesday hosted the first consultative meeting on the follow-up mechanism decided by an international conference held in Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last November, the official MENA news agency reported. The meeting stressed the necessity of implementing the conference's final communique to facilitate the political process in Iraq, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. (XINHUA online)

[summary of opinions on elections] Washington stuck in assessing post-election Iraq. Some US analysts fear further turmoil in Iraq after elections, others say consequence of not holding them will be worse. (Middle East Online)

President George W. Bush, in an interview published Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal, said he was working to make sure the Iraqi elections go forward as planned on January 30, but warned the vote was only a “first step” toward a permanent government. (Wall Street Journal via Khaleej Times)

Spain's Socialist government, which withdrew its troops last year from Iraq, on Tuesday pledged €20m ($26m) to help finance the Iraqi elections that will be held on January 30. Spain is the latest European country to lend support to elections in Iraq, in spite of doubts about whether the elections should be held amid widespread insurgency. (Financial Times)

Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has acknowledged there are what he calls pockets of Iraq that would be too unsafe for voting in a January 30 election, as guerrillas killed 20 people in attacks. Allawi promised to spend $2 billion (1.06 billion pounds) to beef up Iraq's security forces to combat insurgents trying to derail the vote. (Reuters)

Some US analysts are worried Iraq could spiral down into further chaos and even civil war after its January 30 elections, but few here are promoting a delay in the vote. Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, a leading voice in Congress on foreign affairs, said Washington was stuck between two difficult choices. "We are left with a bad choice in holding elections and a worse choice of not holding it," Biden told CNN on Sunday. (Sierra Times)

Delegates from 20 countries that met at a conference on Iraq late last year called at a meeting in Egypt for elections to go ahead as planned on January 30. "The delegations reaffirmed the need to respect UN resolutions on the political process in Iraq, including the elections, which represent a major step," an Egyptian foreign ministry statement said. (AFP via

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiar Zibari said Tuesday the interim government is going to try to bring opposition groups into the nation's upcoming elections. Zibari told reporters in Cairo a reconciliation conference in Baghdad would be aimed at convincing opposition groups to take part in the Jan. 30 elections to select a legislative council that will draft Iraq's new constitution. (UPI via Washington Times)

President Bush spoke by telephone Tuesday with Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi to reaffirm the importance of holding the Jan. 30 elections in that country, the White House said. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush spoke for about 10 minutes with Allawi, who has said that some areas of Iraq probably will be too unsafe to take part in the balloting. (AP)

Opinion: The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal: President Bush is holding firm that Iraqi elections must take place at the end of January. It's the best position to take, for now. For all the likely problems with distributing and counting ballots in such a chaotic climate, delaying elections could exacerbate fears the United States isn't committed to removing its troops as soon as possible. (South Bend Tribune)

Editorial from The Washington Post: The power of elections. [...] Opponents of the election schedule frequently misstate the nature of the terrible violence that afflicts Baghdad and Sunni-populated areas of Iraq. The central conflict no longer lies, if it ever did, between a U.S.-led occupation force and a resentful population; nor is it mainly a battle between those who favor construction of a Western-style democracy and foreign and domestic Islamic extremists. The larger trouble is the resistance of much of Iraq's former elite to a political system that would have the effect of empowering the majority Shiite community and reducing the Arab Sunnis to an influence commensurate with the 20 percent of the population they probably represent. [...]

Andrew Apostolou: A tale of two elections: Abbas and Allawi. The Palestinian election on January 9 was the first of two important national votes in the Middle East, the second being the Iraqi polls on January 30. Whether the two sets of votes mean that two new democracies will be born is uncertain. Upon these elections hang considerable expectations, not just of Palestinians and Iraqis but of their neighbors and the broader Middle East. Many expect that they could provide an opportunity to resolve the instability that bedevils the Middle East. (National Review Online)

[refresh of earlier story] India is interested in helping with the Iraq elections. (New Kerala [India])


President Bush's plan for a democratic Iraq could falter in that nation's first election on Jan. 30. Many of the minority Arab Sunnis plan not to vote. That could mean at least 10 to 20 percent of voters won't cast a ballot, raising doubts about the election's legitimacy and setting back Mr. Bush's hopes for a democratic Middle East that forsakes terrorism. [...] The Sunnis are making a mistake. It's far better to put their nose in this tent than leave it out. Election boycotts rarely work, especially in elections that establish a whole new government. (Christian Science Monitor)

Mustafa Malik of The Daily Star [Lebanon]: Iraq's elections and the paradoxes of Arab reform.

Sonia Chopra of India Daily: Iraq elections still uncertain - a major challenge.

Monday, January 10, 2005

more postponement rumbles

[readers, you must scroll down almost half the page, before the article appears -ed] Iraq's interim government has met U.S. officials and Iraqi politicians regarding a postponement of the Jan. 30 elections. Iraqi officials said Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Defense Minister Hazem Shalaan have determined that insurgents would torpedo Sunni participation in the elections, a move that could split the country. ( via The Watchman Herald)

Analysis: Think Again: Middle East Democracy. People in the Middle East want political freedom, and their governments acknowledge the need for reform. Yet the region appears to repel democracy. Arab regimes only concede women’s rights and elections to appease their critics at home and abroad. If democracy arrives in the Middle East, it won’t be due to the efforts of liberal activists or their Western supporters but to the very same Islamist parties that many now see as the chief obstacle to change. [...] (Foreign Policy, Nov/Dec 2004)

Blog round-up

Hammorabi feels that, contrary to the ideas of Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski the USA may achieve a good success in Iraq but have to bear in mind the following points:

  • To be genuine in its agenda about democracy and reconstruction process
  • To accept the choice of the Iraqis and not to impose its choice on them
  • To understand the Iraqi mentality and culture
  • To understand that the Iraqi Shiites are different from the Iranian politicians
[...continues. long, readable post about Arab world in general, history, ...]

Blog Iraq The Model leads us to Ali's blog Free Iraqi, which addresses a crucial question, is Islam compatible with democracy?

Firas Georges at blog Iraq & Iraqis gives an update on day-to-day life for Iraqi citizens: fuel problems, electricity problems, and the streets are [quite literally] a warzone. Only vaguely related to the Iraqi elections, Firas mentions that most business have departed for neighboring countries until after the elections.

Finally, the front page of has a picture of election banners covering Freedom Square in Baghdad.

The Bush administration hopes to encourage more Sunni participation in Iraq’s elections with “as rigorous security procedures as possible,” according to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Armitage spoke with three Arabic language media services at the State Department in Washington January 7. He told Egypt Television’s Mohamed Elsetouchi, “Both the Iraqi forces, the Iraqi police forces, and the coalition forces are going to be doing their utmost to provide security in ways that benefit the Sunnis, particularly, and allow them to vote, should they desire.” (US Dept. of State)

Expatriates eager to rock the Iraqi vote. With hopes high, they are scrambling to be able to cast ballots at 'a pivotal point in history.' (LA Times)

Op-ed: Iraq's best chance lies in holding elections. Iraq isn't ready for elections. In the past few days alone, the insurgents have intensified their campaign of killing Iraqis cooperating with the United States, including the governor of Baghdad and nearly 80 police officers. Three militant groups have warned Iraqis against taking part in the Jan. 30 vote, and all 700 electoral-commission members have reportedly resigned. Suicide car bombs are so frequent they are routine. But not holding the elections would be worse. [...] (Herald News [New Jersey, USA])

John Robertson, a Central Michigan University history professor who specializes in Middle Eastern history and current affairs, discusses the upcoming elections in Iraq, which are scheduled for Jan. 30. Here are Robertson’s predictions for the upcoming elections.

Washington and Baghdad are still sticking to plans to hold Iraqi elections at the end of January. In light of increasing attacks and calls for postponing the election, however, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is getting nervous. Even influential tribal leaders are now yielding to Islamic fundamentalists as open war rages around Baghdad. It was an astonishing figure, even for Iraqis. Last week the head of Iraqi intelligence, Mohammed Shahwani, reported that the Iraqi terrorist and resistance movement numbered 200,000. The figure, according to Shahwani, includes about 40,000 bomb experts and sharpshooters, as well as 160,000 part-time guerillas and supporters who are harboring resistance fighters and terrorists and providing them with logistics services. (New York Times)

There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there may be only one good way out of the deepening disaster that is Iraq: Hold the elections on Jan. 30, declare victory and begin leaving. Anything less, any more "staying the course," and we're likely doomed to an even bloodier and more costly defeat in a country divided along ethnic and religious fault lines and headed toward civil war. (Joseph Galloway via Detroit Free Press)

As the violence increases by the week in Iraq, there is a stronger call to postpone elections scheduled for Jan. 30. But that would be giving in to terrorists, who are determined to drive the "infidels" out of their country and keep it in a state of anarchy. The democratic elections — the first in Iraq in more than a half-century — cannot be delayed for any reason. Nine American soldiers were killed in a single day last week. The mayor of Baghdad province was killed and bombs explode every day with increasing frequency. But if the elections are not held, the terrorists win. (The Enterprise [Boston, Mass.])

US rejects Sunni election offer

US embassy officials held unprecedented talks with influential Iraqi Sunni Muslim clerics at the weekend, but turned down an offer under which Sunni political parties would end their boycott of January 30 elections. (

Summary of recent election-related news and violence [...] Officials of 14 Iraqi political parties from Kurdish to Islamic began arriving in Paris today for a visit to gather information on the workings of the French political system. Iraq’s interim president, Ghazi al-Yawar, was scheduled to arrive on Wednesday on a three-day official visit that would include a meeting on Thursday with French President Jacques Chirac and other dignitaries. Among those attending were representatives of two Kurdish parties, several parties from the Dawa movement, the Islamic Iraqi Party and the Movement of Independent Democrats. [...] (

[...] In another significant blow to Iraq's upcoming elections, the entire 13-member electoral commission in the volatile province of Anbar, west of the capital, resigned after being threatened by insurgents, a regional newspaper reported Sunday. Saad Abdul-Aziz Rawi, the head of the electoral commission, told the newspaper that it was "impossible to hold elections" in the Sunni-dominated province, where insurgent attacks have prevented voter registration. The restive cities of Fallujah and Ramadi are located in the province. (Houston Chronicle)

Opinion: There is a real possibility of the Jan 30 elections in Iraq creating a political, ideological and religious twin of neighbouring Iran out of the embattled country. The elections, recrimination over whose timing has grown more shrill and violent in recent days, are being watched by the Arab world which wants Iraq's "Arab character" to be preserved by the minority Sunnis, and Iran's theocrats, who are keen to throw a Shia swathe over the region. (new kerala [India])

Op-ed round-up

Thomas Friedman, NYT: Remapping the Middle East, Maybe.

Joshua Muravchik, American Enterprise Institute: The Birth Pangs of Arab Democracy. For the Arab world, 2005 may be remembered as the year of the election. Today, Palestinians will choose a new president. Three weeks later, Iraqis will elect a national assembly. This will be only the beginning. Palestinians will go to the polls no fewer than three more times before the year is out, to elect municipal councils, a new legislative body and new leadership within Fatah, the dominant political party. The Iraqi assembly, in addition to forming a government, will write a constitution that will be put to a national referendum in the fall, followed by new elections.

Peter Baker, Washington Post: He fretted about turnout the other day because, as he put it, that is what politicians do. Never mind that his name will not be on the ballot. For President Bush, back-to-back elections in the Middle East starting today represent a milestone that, for better or worse, will help shape the legacy of his presidency.

Miami Herald: As the Jan. 30 deadline for Iraqi elections approaches, U.S. officials ponder a poignant question. What good are elections if fear of violence prevents candidates from campaigning and large segments of the population from voting? There is no good answer to this question except this: Violence mustn't be allowed to stop the legitimate, historic exercise of the ballot by millions of Iraqis who are, in fact, ready to vote.

An American soldier, blogging from Iraq, makes a point about the elections. (found via

Sunday, January 09, 2005

The manager of the Iraqi National Accord party, headed by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, was assassinated Sunday near his home in Baghdad. Sources close to the party said masked gunmen tailed the car of General Jassem al-Obaidi, who was accompanied by his daughter, and riddled him with bullets. (UPI via Washington Times)

Iraq's most powerful Sunni group will participate in the county's upcoming elections if the U.S. set a timeframe for a full withdrawal, a spokesman for the group said. Members of the influential Association of Muslim Scholars conveyed their demand to a top U.S. Embassy official at a meeting Saturday, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity. (Assyrian International News Agency) Another version of this story from AP.

The first survey of Iraqi women since the outbreak of the war was released today by Women for Women International, one of the few non-governmental organizations remaining in Baghdad. The groundbreaking survey paints a vivid and even surprising portrait of Iraqi women in transition and dispels the prevailing notion that women believe tradition, customs or religion should limit their participation in the formation of a new Iraqi government. The results of the survey of 1,000 Iraqi women in Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra, major political and commercial centers in Iraq, was unveiled in a report entitled “Windows of Opportunity: The Pursuit of Gender Equality in Post-War Iraq.” (Women for Women International)

The upcoming Iraqi elections won't bring an end to the insurgency in Iraq, but it's critical that they proceed as planned, Secretary of State Colin Powell said today on CNN's "Late Edition. Powell, speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, said the coalition, the United Nations, the interim Iraqi government, and most importantly, the Iraqi people, support sticking to the Jan. 30 timetable for the elections. (US DoD)

[UK] Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is to send 650 extra troops to Iraq amid fears of escalating violence ahead of the country’s elections, it was reported today. (

Opinion round-up

Iraqi Elections: a cynical deception. While the whole world mourns the fate of the thousands killed and made homeless by a natural disaster in Asia, a man-made disaster is continuing to spread death, destruction and misery in an ancient country on the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris. (Alan Woods via Bellaciao Collective)

Defining victory down. The President prides himself on being a pig-headed guy. He is determined to win in Iraq, even if he is not winning in Iraq. So get ready for a Mohammedan mountain of spin defining victory down. Come what may—civil war over oil, Iranian-style fatwas du jour or men on prayer rugs reciting the Quran all day on the Iraqi TV network our own geniuses created—this administration will call it a triumph. Even for a White House steeped in hooey, it’s a challenge. President Bush will have to emulate the parsing and prevaricating he disdained in his predecessor: It depends on what the meaning of the word “win” is. (Maureen Dowd via ABS/CBN news)

Iraqi and Palestinian elections Real democracy or an American-made formula? First and foremost I would like to express my condolences for all the victims of the typhoon-flood which was originated by the Indian Ocean’s Tsunami earthquake, and thank endlessly nations and individuals doing anything to alleviate this human tragedy. (Yahya Al-Olfi via Yemen Times)

Iraqi officials are adopting measures for upcoming elections in an attempt to thwart terrorist attacks on voters, including instant voter registrations on election day. (Washington Times)

President Hosni Mubarak expressed hope Saturday that Iraq's elections will be held on schedule but said all Iraqis need to participate to avoid further violence in the war-ravaged state. (AP via Washington Post)

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, after a brief visit to Iraq during a trip to regions in Asia, said Saturday he was confident the scheduled Jan. 30 elections would go off as planned. "It will happen," the Minnesota Republican said. "The Iraqis are excited." (AP via San Jose Mercury News)

Iraq must push ahead with Jan. 30 elections despite relentless bloodshed, voter intimidation and attacks on electoral staff, the chief U.N. election official in the country said Sunday. Carlos Valenzuela, who has helped organize elections in some of the world's most hostile places, said Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission, organizing the poll, would only recommend a delay if political consensus was reached on a postponement or violence made it impossible to prepare nationwide. (Reuters)

Leaders of Iraq's Sunni Arab minority and other skeptics say it is so dangerous in large parts of the country that it will be all but impossible to hold nationwide elections Jan. 30. Even President Bush recently conceded 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces are ready for elections. But on the busy second and third floors of a building inside this city's heavily fortified Green Zone, dozens of United Nations officials, Iraqi poll workers and monitoring groups -- some strolling in and out wearing flak jackets and blue helmets -- are hard at work to ensure the elections go forth as scheduled. (The Star Ledger [NJ])

American military commanders in restive Al Anbar Province are warning local leaders that elections will be held on schedule at the end of January, regardless of the security situation or some politicians’ opposition to the process. On Wednesday, senior Marine Corps officials brought their message directly to the mayors of Hit and Baghdadi, cities northwest of Fallujah that could be a flash point of violence in coming weeks. (Stars & Stripes)