Along the Tracks

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Iraq polling (relatively) violence-free

Early reports from Iraq sound positive as referendum day on the constitution ends. Violence was apparently sporadic and minor enough not to catch the attention of Western reporters, even in Sunni areas. Let's hope this storyline holds.

It is harder to get a sense of the turnout, though. I would imagine those reports from outlying districts will start pouring in this afternoon.

Unlike a lot of observers, I don't think either passage or rejection is necessarily the "turning point" for Iraq, positive or negative. If the constitution passes, Sunnis will need to choose whether to become active in coalition-building inside the new Iraqi Parliament, starting with December elections - or to throw in completely with the insurgency and get beaten in a civil war, setting up their own despot state in the Triangle. According to the Zawahiri letter, this latter possibility is prefered by al Qaeda.

On the other hand, if the constitution is defeated, the process gets dragged out for another six months or so. This is bad from the U.S. point of view, as it will stretch out the need for high troop levels, and ultimately require more good American blood. However, that blood (as the rest has been) will be well spent on our own security, as a new draft constitution would almost certainly include much greater participation by Sunnis, which would strengthen the document and cut out the legs from the insurgency in the long run. Look at the democratic shockwaves rocking the Middle East due to an incipient republic in Iraq; imagine the positive changes for American security and Arab peoples if Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities finally unite on a democratic constitution?

So, the results of this referendum will narrow the paths into the future, but won't necessarily clarify THE PATH. By December, however, things should be pretty clear. Keep praying.

I'm concerned about the fraud possibility, though I don't think our government had anything to do with it. At least at this point it seems they are looking at it which is a good thing. I don't think it's a huge turning point either but it is a step forward.

I'm not sure I'd make quite as large of a deal about some of the questions concerning the numbers in two provinces as followers of Juan Cole, but it is worth paying attention to.

How Iraq deals with questions like this can help move them even farther forward or back depending on the outcome.
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