Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Who's Ready to Rumble?

The players continue to set up for the grand finale, with Ayatollah Ali Sistani's United Iraqi Alliance dropping its campaign promise to seek an immediate deadline for American troop withdrawal. Instead, its platform now claims "the Iraq we want is capable of protecting its borders and security without depending on foreign forces."

I consider this a positive expression of realism from the party most likely to come out on top in the upcoming elections. I'm skeptical that any Iraqi government, with the troop strength currently available, will be able to quell the insurgency. US troops are still essential for a stable Iraq. But the Iraq'd blog warns us of the potential pitfalls:
If the Alliance has run on any issues at all--and not just on its connections to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani--it's run on the promise to negotiate a U.S. troop withdrawal. Banners at Shia mosques read "Elections Are the Ideal Way to Expel the Occupier from Iraq." It may be that the Alliance, once elected, can persuade an anti-occupation Shia populace that a pullout can only occur after Iraqi capabilities exist. (And perhaps it'll seek to fill the capabilities gap with Shia militiamen.) Perhaps loyalty to Sistani can indeed trump the desire to be rid of a foreign presence. But the Alliance should be very prepared for Moqtada Al Sadr to exploit the issue to the hilt. Get ready for some serious inter-Shia tensions, right at the beginning of an elected transitional government that will have no shortage of difficulty writing a constitution and dealing with Sunni disaffection.

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