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DILIP HIRO on the Iraqi Elections

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bloom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-28-05 12:37 PM
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DILIP HIRO on the Iraqi Elections
As we've entered 2005, the run-up to the elections has thrown into relief the long-running tensions between the traditional governing Sunni minority and the governed Shiite majority, a relationship that dates back to the absorption of Mesopotamia into the Sunni Ottoman Turkish Empire in 1638.

Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the 1914-18 World War, the British, detaching the oil-rich Kurdish region (then called Mosul Province) from Ottoman Turkey and attaching it to Mesopotamia to create modern Iraq, added an ethnic factor to the previous sectarian divide. Kurds, belonging to the Indo-European tribal family, are different from Semitic Arabs and they now form about one-sixth of the Iraqi population. Though overwhelmingly Sunni, they do not appear in the Sunni-Shiite equation because their ethnic difference from Arabs overrides their religious fellowship with Sunni Arabs.

The capture of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni and leader of the Sunni-dominated Baath Party, finally ended the 365-year-old Sunni hegemony. History shows, however, that no class, sectarian, or ethnic group gives up power without a fight; and having lost power, the former ruling group invariably tries to regain it by hook or crook...

The members of the two sects differ, however, about the means to be used to achieve this aim. Hakim and other Shiite leaders by and large want to participate in the January 30 poll, win a majority of seats in the National Assembly, and then negotiate with the Americans for a phased withdrawal. Most Sunnis -- from secular nationalists to Islamist militants -- view elections conducted in a country under occupation by foreign, infidel troops as illegitimate. The call for a poll boycott has come not only from the insurgent groups but also from the Association of Muslim Scholars, which claims the affiliation of 3,000 mosques. The Iraqi Islamic Party, which had been part of the US-sponsored Iraqi Governing Council and the subsequent Interim Government, decided to boycott the poll when its demand for a postponement of the vote was rejected.

To deter violence on the polling day, the Election Commission has so far withheld the names of 5,600 polling centers, and the participating parties have not disclosed full lists of their candidates.
(They finally did with 3 days to go - 7000 on the ballot). While voters may be unaware of the locations of their polling centers, guerilla groups are not. By infiltrating the Election Commission, their agents have already evidently leaked such confidential information to them. One insurgent leader in Baghdad claimed that his resistance cells had stockpiled extra amounts of rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and missiles, which they had prepositioned in places where they will be able to hit the polling centers known to them.

Dilip Hiro is the author of Secrets and Lies: Operation Iraqi Freedom and After (Nation Books) and The Essential Middle East: A Comprehensive Guide (Carrol & Graf). Copyright C2005 Dilip Hiro. Courtesy,
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