Iraq: As Good as it Gets

Iraq: As Good as it Gets

by Colonel Gary Anderson

Download the full article: Iraq: As Good as it Gets

I was not surprised that Ayad Allawi got a lot of votes in the recent Iraqi election. What surprised me is how many of his votes got counted. Allawi is a secular Shiia who ran on a nationalist platform. He ran squarely against the ultra religious segment of the Shiia elites in Iraq who have cuddled up to Iran in recent years, and he also opposed the radical Islamic nationalists in Iraq's fractious Shiite majority. In this, he gained the overwhelming support of the nation's minority Sunni community. Of nearly 200 Iraqis I polled in the months leading up to the election, virtually no-one I talked to said that he or she would vote for the ruling Maliki block. I wasn't asking who they would vote for, only if they would vote. However, about thirty percent of those interviewed volunteered their preference anyway. With one exception, Shiia and Sunni, they were for Allawi's team. The lone Maliki leaning exception was the Deputy Governor of the Abu Ghraib district (Qada'a), and he was running on Maliki's ticket.

Despite their enthusiasm for Allawi, most of my Iraqi acquaintances did not believe that their votes would count. They believed that Maliki and Ahmed Chalabi had conspired with the Iranians to rig the election. Jamail, my farmer buddy, was the contrarian in the group. He declared confidently; "this government is so incompetent that they couldn't rig a goat auction much less an election." At the time I thought him to be a cynic. I now think he was a prophet. The election results surprised both the American leadership and the Iraqi elites who reside primarily in the protected luxury of Green Zone. They talk to each other and not to the farmer Jamails. The fact that the residents of the Green Zone call it the "International Zone", while everyone else in Iraq still calls it the Green Zone is telling.

Some of the Green Zone dwellers think the post-election jockeying between the various political factions will be American style "horse trading" as we saw in the health care debate; they have sold this line to the Washington Post and New York Times. This is bunk. Iraqi politics is a full contact sport, and blood will be shed. Nor will the battle be primarily sectarian. It will be a Shiia-on- Shiia affair. If it doesn't end up in a civil war, it will look like a Chicago gang war before it is over.

Download the full article: Iraq: As Good as it Gets

Colonel Gary Anderson, USMC Ret., recently left the State Department after a one year tour as a Senior Governance Advisor with an embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Abu Ghraib District (Qada'a) of Iraq's Baghdad Province.

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