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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

We Vote, and Then We Throw You Out

An interesting compilation of names and facts about the aftermath of the upcoming election in Iraq that we won't see in the New York Times or any Western media outlet.

This, in a nutshell, is the Shi'ite agenda for the new Iraq, potentially embracing 62% of the population of roughly 25 million to 26 million. The pact may have been a Sadrist move, but there's no reason to believe these decisions will not be implemented as the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), which is dominated by the SCIRI, Da'wa and the Sadrists, is set to become the majority in the new, 275-member Iraqi National Assembly. The whole numbers issue in the elections is by which percentage the UIA will be a majority compared to the Kurdistan coalition and the Iraqi Concord Front.

The main players

The UIA, list number 555, created with the blessing of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, received almost 50% of the votes in the January elections. Now the 18-party UIA is weaker because some parties defected. Sistani stated his position last Sunday. In January, he practically ordered all Shi'ites to vote for the UIA. Now, he is more nuanced. "These elections are just as important as the preceding ones, and citizens - both male and female - must participate in them on a wide scale in order to guarantee a big and powerful presence for those who will safeguard their verities and work energetically for their higher interests in the next parliament."

Although not explicitly endorsing the UIA, he did advise all Shi'ites to not split and not waste their vote; this would mean something like "vote for the UIA, not for Allawi". Politically, the UIA has been heavily criticized by Iraqis themselves for being utterly impotent - and incompetent - while dealing with corruption and fighting against both the Sunni Arab resistance and the jihadi groups.

The eight-party Kurdistan coalition list, number 730, remains dominated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, headed by the current Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, and the Kurdish Democratic Party, headed by Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan. They have been allies to the UIA in government for the past 10 months, but the infighting is abysmal. The only thing the Kurds actually care about is Kirkuk and its oil wealth - and how they can prevent Sunni Arabs and Turkmen from having a slice of the cake.

The 15-group Iraqi National List, number 731, secular and pan-sectarian, is headed by Allawi. The list includes the Communist Party, former foreign minister (pre-Saddam) Adnan al-Pachachi (a Sunni Arab), a few tribal sheikhs and even some liberal Shi'ite clerics.

They say they will fight the Sunni Arab resistance (would that mean leveling Ramadi now instead of Fallujah?), establish a strong central government (SCIRI, Da'wa and the Sadrists would never let them get away with it), revise the de-Ba'athification laws (so Allawi can get his former pals back to government) and return more former officers of the Iraqi Army disbanded by former proconsul L Paul Bremer to the new security forces (once again, over the dead body of the SCIRI, Da'wa and the Sadrists).

The Iraqi Concord Front, number 618, is an alliance of three mostly Islamist Sunni Arab groups. All of them boycotted the January elections. Their platform includes total American withdrawal, and of course bringing back former Sunni Arab Iraqi Army officers. They also want to change the constitution - again - eliminating the newfound regional power and reinforcing the authority of Baghdad.

The 10-party Iraqi National Congress (INC) list, number 569, is headed by former Pentagon asset, current deputy prime minister and eternal revivalist, Chalabi. He split from the UIA to form his own group. Chalabi obviously preaches fighting against the Sunni Arab resistance and in impeccable populist fashion promised every Iraqi family cash derived from Iraq's oil money plus a piece of land for every family that did not yet own a home.

All's well in militia hell

When they are not occupied dodging bullets or trying to spend at least one hour of the day with some water and electricity, Iraqis see rot piling up everywhere. The Allawi-Chalabi (they are cousins) mini-war gets dirtier by the day. The British government is according to some unconfirmed reports pulling out all the stops to stall an investigation into the theft of more than US$1.3 billion from the Ministry of Defense. This favors - who else - Allawi, because the money "disappeared" during his corruption-infested six months as prime minister.

Then there's the rot in the Ministry of Interior. Bayan Jabr, the minister, is from the SCIRI. He controls about 110,000 men armed to their teeth. The SCIRI's militia, the Badr Organization, formerly the Badr Brigade, rule the ministry and have infiltrated paramilitary police commandos, which are in fact "legal" death squads specialized in terrorizing Sunni Arabs. In parallel, Muqtadar's Mahdi Army controls most of Baghdad's police. Many people tend to forget that Baghdad is a predominantly Shi'ite city.

This country is no more

None of this points to national cohesion. "Iraq" as we know it - the unified, heavily centralized state with arbitrary borders drawn on a paper napkin by Britain after World War I - may be on its way to extinction after these elections.

Partition is de facto in the four provinces of Kurdistan - roughly between 15% and 20% of the total population, self-governed and with their own army and police. The billion-dollar question is how the SCIRI, Da'wa and the Sadrists will conform a Shi'iteistan composed of nine Shi'ite provinces out of Iraq's 18. This would be the logical outcome after the American-designed constitution approved in the October 15 referendum. The SCIRI's leader, Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, definitely wants a Shi'iteistan.

The US would be left with little more than the Green Zone - which is not exactly an oil lake - and a lot of empty desert. Essentially, Kurds and Shi'ites will be able to decide what to do with their oil revenues. The Kurds, for instance, have already signed a contract with a Norwegian oil company to drill for oil.

Escobar's prediction:

Election or no election, the ultimate blood-drenched quagmire will remain fully operational. Al-Qaeda will keep suicide bombing to death. Shi'ite death squads will keep executing Sunni Arabs. Shi'ite and Kurd politicians will keep squabbling - while Kurdistan and Shi'iteistan further ignore Baghdad. The Americans will keep controlling nothing - not even the road from the airport to the Green Zone. "Reconstruction" will remain non-existent - until the probably not-too-distant day when the Shi'ite signatories of the "pact of honor" - the probable election winners - will muster the will to tell the occupiers "you're out - and don't forget to pack your military bases as well".

Read it all


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