Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Problem with Iraq's New Elections Law

One of Iraq's vice-presidents, the Sunni Arab Tareq al-Hashemi, is now insisting that the newly passed elections law be changed.  More important, he has the veto power to be able to stop the law in its tracks, thereby causing a postponement of the election (which has already been pushed back to later in January 2010 than was originally intended) and, as a result, some delay in the schedule for Obama's withdrawal of US combat forces from the country.

You can bet that Mr. al-Hashemi is taking some heat from Iraqi legislators, not to mention the US ambassador and other representatives of the US government.  But he has a point.

The new elections law makes no provision for representation for the 2 million Iraqis who have left the country since 2003, most of them Sunni Arabs, most of them forced into exile because of the threats they faced from Shii Arabs in Baghdad and the south.  And let's face it: Iraq as a political entity has about zero chance of survival if its Sunni citizens, who dominated Iraq's political establishment from the creation of the Hashemite kingdom in 1921 down to the ouster of Saddam and the mostly-Sunni Baath in 2003, feel as if they've not been given sufficient representation.

Coming up with a formula to do that will be difficult, but necessary if there's to be any chance for the new Shii-dominated government to stay on its feet.  On the other hand, the Shii, long disadvantaged in the Iraqi political system, now have the upper hand, know they have the upper hand, and are fearful that any significant concessions to Sunni representation will undercut their own new ascendancy.  Nor will Iran be happy to see concessions made to a Sunni element whose former leaders launched the devastating Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988.

Stay tuned.

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