03 February 2009

Will Iraq explode again?

Marc Lynch has a sobering insight:

One of the main reasons that the U.S. pushed so hard for the provincial elections in the first place was as a reward for the Awakenings groups which had cooperated with the U.S. against al-Qaeda. For over a year the Anbar Salvation Council and various tribal groupings have been engaged in a nasty political battle with the Iraqi Islamic Party. The IIP controlled the provincial council after most Sunnis boycotted the election, and the Anbar Salvation Council wanted power for itself as a reward for its service against AQI. It almost came to violence at several points -- but it was always tamped down (in part) by the U.S. pointing to the elections as the moment for power to be transferred peacefully and legitimately.

I kept warning, publicly and privately, that they might not actually win those elections: that tribal influence may be exaggerated, that the Awakenings were internally divided, that the Islamic Party could draw on state resources. But I was told again and again by military sources and others that this was impossible, that the tribal groups controlled the streets, and that the IIP had no chance.

Well, early returns suggest that the Islamic Party has won at least a plurality in Anbar. Turnout was only 40%. Ahmed Abu Risha, formerly of the Anbar Salvation Council and now of the Iraqi Awakenings Conference [corrected], has been telling everyone who will listen that there was massive electoral fraud in Anbar, and that if the IIP is declared the winner the province will look "like Darfur." Another leader, Hamed al-Hayes of the Anbar Salvation Council, is warning that if the IIP is declared the winner his men will turn the province into a graveyard for the IIP and its collaborators. The Iraqi military has declared a curfew to prevent outbreaks of violence.

No comments: