Sunday, December 11, 2005

 

Iraqi Elections II


Bremer’s appointed Iraq Governing Council set the tone, defined the major players in the political arena and defined the rules of the game through the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL).

The previous elections in January of this year took place in that environment and resulted in a highly polarized, ethnic and sectarian assembly. Not surprisingly, two major forces emerged: Shiite religious fundamentalist parties and an ethnic Kurdish bloc dominated by the two larger parties, run by war lords. Both blocs are a far cry from the political parties one desires for a modern state.

The “Shiite” religious alliance parties are the most vocal against sectarianism. Yet, they did more than anybody else to promote sectarianism, except perhaps for Mr. Zarqawi and the US administration. The two Kurdish parties cry out loudly against ‘backward’ Arab Nationalism. Yet, the cornerstone of their existence, drive and policies is Kurdish Nationalism. In any case, they have maintained their grip on Kurdistani politics, apart from the rebellious Kurdistan Islamic Union and a few other small fish. I would have thought democracy is all about choice!

Both blocs have little regard for democracy beyond lip service. Both blocs have now entrenched. However, both are destined to have fewer seats in the coming Parliament. On the other hand much of what they wanted to accomplish was already done.

It is the end of yet another phase in this unfolding ugly drama. It is more serious this time: a new phase of democracy. This is no longer an “interim government” or “interim assembly”. This will be a fully fledged Legislative and Government that are meant to last for 4 years. Cronycracy Phase III?

Differences and Similarities

The major difference is that Iraq is no longer a single electoral district. The new Elections Law divides Iraq into 18 provinces. Provinces are assigned a number of seats each, which is an improvement. The number of assigned seats is not totally fair, but it is nevertheless a major improvement.

Those major players allowed it because they probably feel that they can now hold their own under such a system. The resistance to making the country into the 275 districts needed to elect the 275 members of the parliament was at one time baffling, given that the country is already administratively divided into those districts. It is no longer so. Now we all know. Perhaps this will be done when those parties have entrenched further and feel that they can secure winning at the local level after they have entrenched further.

In these coming elections, some things are the same, namely, the major players and their rather vague agenda; their true agenda being somewhat different from their declared policies.

As before, we are told that the number of candidates is around 7000. Again, it is only with some difficulty that anyone can find out the names of those candidates! Those interested can find some details at the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq website. Also, the number of slates is not much less. In Baghdad for example, the number is 106, as opposed to something like 112 in the last elections. And there are no secret candidates this time. I only detected one such case. Nevertheless, it is still extremely difficult to know more about most of those candidates or what they stand for.

A notable difference this time is that the competition between the various political parties is much fiercer than last time. Venomous accusations of wrongdoing and corruption are rife. There has also been some campaigning violence.

Shifting Players in Shifting Sands

A few interesting features of this election differ from the last one in terms of the team players.

Sistani: There were several ‘semi-official’ reports a few weeks ago that Sistani encouraged people to participate in these elections and to support “strong religious parties”. That could only mean one thing: the Shiite slate… and consequently sectarian polarization. A few days ago however, new reports started to emerge that the old man was taking a completely impartial stand. The position is still ambiguous. Opposing sides are claiming different things. The Shiite slate people are saying the slate was “formed” under the supervision and the blessing of Sistani. He would have to make a clear statement of his position in the next few days if he wants his position to be unambiguous.

Muqtada al Sadr has now officially joined the fundamentalist Shiite parties. That slate is no longer just Shiite, but religious Shiite. He had actually joined the same slate in the previous elections after the intervention of Sistani following the Najaf confrontation and secured and was given 21 seats in the present assembly and a couple of ministries. However, that was done very quietly since that change of stance was too sudden for most of his followers. This time it is out in the open. Personally, this has been a major disappointment. Although his followers come from Shiite slum areas, he managed for more than a year to distant himself from sectarian groups. On the contrary, he stood firm with Fallujah in assault I of April, 2004 and had considerable connections with “Sunni rejectionists”. Much of that change was Sistani’s doing.

It is interesting that Mr. Chalabi, the neocons’ man in Iraq and who played an important role in forming that religious fundamentalist Shiite bloc, has now left them to run on his own. The “official” reason given is that Chalabi wanted more seats than the other parties were willing to give him. Incidentally, he was joined by the monarchists!!

Many of the rejectionist “Sunnis” are now taking part. As I can see, there are two main slates representing these:

The major player for those “Sunnis’ seems to be Islamic Party coalition (who boycotted the last elections after their demand for a postponement was not met) which has a “Sunni” stance and colors. They do seem to have a favorable electorate in mixed areas and in the western provinces. This will lead to further sectarian polarization of Iraqi politics. In fact, with them being part of the process, the ethnic and sectarian polarization of politics will be complete.

Another emerging player is Saleh Mutlag, a man who made a name for himself by fiercely opposing the Constitution draft… to the extent that ‘the other side’ vetoed his participation of the ‘reconciliatory’ conference in Cairo held under the auspices of the Arab League. He seems to have some following.

But the man of the hour so far seems to be Allawi. He has managed to reshape his alliances by inviting minor ‘secular’ players who did not do well in the previous elections, but he is making it perfectly clear who is running the show. TV campaigning is heavily “personalized” portraying him as the needed strong, charismatic leader. His slate is simply known as the Allawi slate.

His list certainly makes interesting reading. The names cover the whole spectrum from Communists to staunch capitalists, but they have two characteristics in common: secularism and a pro-occupation stance.

Allawi, a Shiite himself, has also cast his lot strongly against the “Shiite” parties. He went as far as saying that these people were doing worse things than Saddam. [They made their own opinion of him perfectly clear on his canvassing visit to Najaf recently. Protestors stoned him and threw tomatoes at him. He claimed it was an assassination attempt.]

The two Kurdish parties naturally look favorably at him. He is already a signatory to the issues that they deem most important: Secularism, the Constitution and the particular Federal system of government that they want. In addition, they know that he is the American favorite. They can do business with him.

But the important thing is that many ordinary people, Sunni and Shiite, are looking favorably at him. He is posing as the “secular” politician. I am constantly surprised by the number of people, ordinary Iraqis from all walks of life, in Baghdad, the mixed areas and the western provinces who are supporting him - far more than during the last elections. They see him as the only one capable of standing up to the “Shiite” religious, pro- Islamic Iran fundamentalists, who has a chance of having a say in forming the next Parliament and the next government. Many people have already forgotten, or chosen to forget, that it was he who sanctioned the bombing of Fallujah II and Najaf; that his interim government saw the introduction of corruption to an unprecedented level; and that he is self-confessed CIA man. We have a saying that reflects this mood and that we hear repeatedly these days. It says something like: “He who sees death accepts fever”.

With something like $40 million in US backing, he managed to secure around 40 seats last time. I have no idea of the financial backing he is receiving now (he seems to have no shortage of funds)… however, he is expected to have much better fortunes this time around.

That was the arena, and these are the players.

Conspicuously absent from the arena (again) is one Jwad al Khalisi, a Shiite scholar of some standing, but who is strong in his opposition to sectarianism and the occupation. Although quite active, he is given very little exposure in the media! The other major figure absent is Ayatollah Ahmed al Baghdadi, a senior Shiite cleric who is strongly critical of the occupation. On the Sunni side, the influential Association of Muslim Clerics is also absent. All are against the elections as a matter of principle, maintaining that no elections can be free under occupation.

And the winner is…

Within the internal US rivalry, it should be clear by now that the CIA / State Department coalition has beaten the Neocon / DoD alliance... or so it seems so far. This has been true for some time.

Within that race itself, I don’t know who the “winner” will be, whether Talabani will be President, whether Allawi will form the government, whether Chalabi will keep his Ministry of Oil for the Neocons or whether Solagh will keep his Ministry of the Interior… but I already know two of the losers: Iraq… and America.

This may be a strange thing to say with the strong march of “Democracy” gaining a foothold in the country, but Iraq has been proved to be a strange, perhaps even bizarre, place for many people… particularly those who have difficulty learning.


Comments:

Hello Abu Khaleel,
I hope strongly the Iraqis bring defeat to the UIA. Why? Because if they win there is the strong possibility of a second occupation-by Iran. It is not from doubting Al-Jafari's intentions. This comes from the weakness of the Iraqi government in the face of the insurgency. I watch on TV the Basij fanatic militia. Can you imagine these 'volunteers' in Iraq? That would be the end of Iraqi reconciliation forever. But a UIA government will need aid to continue in power. Ahmedinejad seems capable of anything-I have heard they are quietly purging Kurds(maybe Arabs?).
 
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"Within that race itself, I don’t know who the “winner” will be, whether Talabani will be President, whether Allawi will form the government, whether Chalabi will keep his Ministry of Oil for the Neocons or whether Solagh will keep his Ministry of the Interior"

What a mess, you mean know one can tell me who is going to win this election? It hasn't been pre ordained and we have to wait for the results, which might be affected by the competition of the campaigns, religious and sectarian, not to mention tribal allegiances, and of course the unavoidable fraud that's likely to play a roll?

All we can do is pray that a new saddam will rise to bring order to this chaos
 
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If unavoidable fraud is likely to play a role, let's just have Allawi win 99% of the vote. Unavoidable fraud playing a role means we are not talking about democracy.

There was talk after the January elections that the results were massaged so that the Shiite list would not be able to make a government by itself.

I found the results in Ninevah in the October referendum to be suspicious because of the early announcements and the reports of fraud.

What measures are in place to ensure transparency in these Iraqi elections? Are the results audited by anyone? If the Kurds or the Americans or the Shiites were to want to commit fraud, who would be able to stop them?
 
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"The major difference is that Iraq is no longer a single electoral district. The new Elections Law divides Iraq into 18 provinces. Provinces are assigned a number of seats each, which is an improvement. The number of assigned seats is not totally fair, but it is nevertheless a major improvement."
So can you run that by us again?
Say X Province is assigned 50 seats, presumably more or less on a population basis, does the winning party in that Province (highest number of votes?) take all 50 seats, or are the seats for that province distributed on a proportional basis, i.e. 30 party A, 10 party B, and so on?
Or is it some other uniquely Iraqi arrangement?
Puzzled Circular
 
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In fact I do expect some foul play in these elections (as was the case on two previous occasions.

Many of the parties (including SCIRI !) have been airing some fears... but this is another story!

MadTom,

Will you please consider some positive contribution to a discussion once in a while for a change? You know perfectly well my position regarding both Saddam and democracy. So what was the point of your provocative comment? Is it for the benefit of those readers unfamiliar with my position? ie a propagandist ploy?

May I respectfully ask you to read the post again?... and think about it before giving Circular even more ammunition?


Circular,

Most slates have more than one candidate. In Baghdad, for example, a candidate is expected to need 60,000 votes to win. If a slate gets 200,000 votes say, the first three candidates on that slate will get seats. The remainder is treated with a complex set of rules to transfer the extra votes to other provinces, etc.
 
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"Will you please consider some positive contribution to a discussion once in a while for a change? You know perfectly well my position regarding both Saddam and democracy."

Well the truth is I don't know your position on those subjects, or at least only superficially, I was going by the tone of your post. maybe if you try smiling while you type.
I tried to include as many of the complaints that I have received over the past two years that I could remember on the spot. The US plan is flawed because, Iraq sectarian divide, Shiite fundamentalist, the political campaigns are not robust and we don't know what they stand for, (something your still going on about) And some fraud for good measure, as Iraqi's voting technique is still a bit, well lets just call it tribal. And all the complaints about US behind the scene installing Puppets. And yet you are unable with any certainty to predict a winner.
Kind of frightening I know. Maybe we need to delay the election because of all the violence, occupation, or till the UN comes to help?

Do you know how many poll watchers the UN is sending to help Iraqi's have a free and fair election, or the EU?
I think three, and I'm sure they will not leave the green zone. I guess you saved!
 
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It seems as if a new alignment is developing: Kurdish, Sunni and American against Shiite and Iranian.

The Sunnis coming to the American side reminds me of Saddam attacking Iran after the Iranian revolution.

It will be interesting to see if over the next year the insurgency does not become mainly Shiite.
 
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From Circular
I guess I didn’t phrase my question very well, Abu, as you don’t seem to have replied to the point. What I was trying to ask was: does the fact that Iraq is now apparently 18 very large electoral districts (provinces) rather than one huge electoral district mean there may be a significantly different outcome from last time?
And an obvious supplementary question: is there any reason to expect that a Government will be formed in rather less than the four months that it took last time?
The more I think about it, the more I become convinced that a proportional representation system is not necessarily the best approach to democracy - and this may be particularly so in places like Iraq where religious differences can cloud the basic democratic divides of left and right, liberal and conservative, progressive and reactionary, etc.
(Americans like MadTom, of course, ignorant of the wider world and habituated as they are to a primitive and corrupt two-party system, mostly seem very confused by proportional representation and multi-party governments. And other things. I recall before the last election asking various Blogs, including Today in Iraq, Juan Cole and a certain Abu Kahleel, who would wield the real executive power in Iraq, the Prime Minister or the President. Nobody knew for sure. But Americans automatically assumed the President, being unable to see past their own model.)
Not that Jafaari has exactly wielded power very effectively. His name is a bit of a laugh here in NZ, because the rest of the country refer to us from the main city as JAFAs. (Just Another F**king Aucklander.)
With our semi-proportional representation here, it was good to see someone get into Parliament the old-fashioned way in our recent election. He attacked a safe conservative electorate by simply door-knocking, shaking hands, kissing babies etc every hour that God sent, with unbelievable energy, and won handily. Can’t happen in Iraq yet, I guess.
One opponent had predicted that this win was as likely as himself walking naked down the main street. So afterwards he had to do it - cheated though, he wore underpants and a very nice suit painted on his scrawny body by a body-painting artist. I doubt that would happen in Iraq, either.
Speaking of which, who are you voting for? Is there a party representing sceptical conservative depressed secular Sunni idealists?
(Somehow I’ve formed a mental image of a shortish baldish slightly tubby one, with glasses. There is no sane reason for this.)
 
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Very interesting post, and very interesting commentary.

To be quite honest, Iraq is screwed, if these trends continue.

If the US is able to portray Allawi as a viable counterweight to the Shiite parties, and many common people fall for the ploy - simply the Americans will NEVER leave. It will be one long orgy of horror, a la Pinochet. Just ask the South Americans about the gringo way of doing business. (Madtom excepted, because he is simply a nut).

From the American viewpoint, it would be nice to ‘co-opt’ the eevil insurgency / resistance (which the war nuts have been demonising till now) into a frame-work of their making, and to turn them onto the Shias / Iranians. This is so Orwellian it’s sick. Today the ‘Sunnis’ are Eurasia, tomorrow they are Oceania. And just watch how the American sheeple will fall in line and support the current position fiercely. Mr Democracy has posted some short but tantalising insights on this possibility.

The box is clear – divide and rule. Make the Iraqis hate each other more than the foreigner, and you can do what you like with them. Let them struggle all they want within their box, but never let them out of it.

Quite frankly, a ‘political’ solution to this mess is just more BS flung onto the heap. If politicians were a species I’d be the first to campaign for universal euthanasia for their kind. With a few exceptions, they will sell out to the highest bidder every time. I have seen this time and time again in my own home country, and what I have read on Iraqi politics sounds most familiar – worse luck.

So: scare Iraqis with the big bad Iranian stooges (SCIRI et al) and hold Allawi up as the ‘least worse’ option.

In retrospect - given that Abu Khaleel has made it clear that these ‘torture centres’ were an open secret – it would seem as if the Badr Brigade et al were allowed to get out of hand deliberately, in order to give the common Iraqi something to fear and to vote against. It certainly fits the bill of, in the words of a US military officer, ‘making the Sunni population pay the price’ for supporting the resistance.
 
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“Hello” Anonymous, Mr. Democracy,

The people who are bursting with anger and most likely to join any national insurgency are what I call Shiite Arabs, particularly those residing in the lower Euphrates basin. From what I hear when meeting these people, they seem to have had enough. Some claim that the many delegations that they sent to see Sistani were the main cause of his change of position. They respect the old man a lot but they do not look favorably on the sectarian strife and the cuddly relationship of some of those representing Shiites with fundamentalist Iran. They are however held in check by a multitude of forces.

Circular,

You are cheating again, obviously for the sole purpose of legitimizing posting new questions! There was no ambiguity in your question and I think I addressed it adequately! Incidentally, I am so sorry to disappoint you Mr. Holmes of Kiwiland. I am not shortish, I am not baldish yet, and I am not “a slightly tubby one”. I am slightly myopic (!! Or would you prefer “short-sighted”) and occasionally wear glasses, but no reading glasses… yet. Poor show indeed, but nice try.

Bruno,

You are closer to the mark than even you may give yourself credit for!

Regulars,

To save people the trouble of asking familiar questions, here are my criteria:

I will NOT vote for any slate that has candidates who…

1. receive any funding from foreign powers or
2. have retained their foreign nationality (especially of enemy states) or
3. have innocent blood on their hands.

Three very simple conditions. When I mention them to people, many say that I am excluding most candidates. My answer is: so be it! I don’t care if they exclude ALL candidates.

I have identified a few slates that meet these requirements. I am actually actively supporting one little known slate that meets these criteria and is in line with my grass-root democracy. It is based on ‘local’ people all over the country, Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds, seculars… although I declined an offer to join them.

I have added a link in the main post to a good report kindly provided by Carl Conetta on the breakdown of seats.

It is evident that both the UIA and the Kurdistani slates will not take “Sunni Area” seats even if people do not turn out in large numbers in those areas.

To give you a better picture, perhaps the picture I see at the moment may do. If you remember, last time I posted what somebody else’s jinni predicted. He turned out to be wrong… and I deleted that post later. So, this time I am consulting my own personal jinni. Let’s hope he’s more accurate:

Seat allocation: Provinces by “tag”: Shiite, 81, Kurdish 35, Sunni, 36, Baghdad 59, Kirkuk 9, Diyala 10 + 45 compensatory seats = 275 seats in total.

“Kurdish” Slate: Kurdish provinces (35) 35 + Kirkuk (9) 5 + Baghdad (59) 7 + Diyala (10) 2 Sunni (Nineveh) (19) 4 = 51

“Religious Shiite” - UIA: Southern provinces (81) 70 + Diyala (10) 4 + Baghdad (59) 25 + = 99

“Religious Sunni” parties: Sunni areas (36) 25 + Kirkuk (9) 3 + Diyala (10) 3 + Baghdad (59) 10 + = 41

Allawi: southern (81) 9 + Sunni (37) 9 + Baghdad (59) 14 + Diyala (10) 3 = 35

With the compensatory votes, I expect the final result roughly to look something like:

“Kurdish” Slate: 50

“Religious Shiite” - IUA: 100

Islamic “Sunni” parties: 40

Allawi: 40

All others: 45

Total: 275

Simple Majority needed: 138
Two-third majority needed: 183

A bit rough, I agree, but it may have to do for the moment as a rough cut-and-ready guide. Perhaps this may be a good ‘reference’ to measure deviations of actual results. The expected deadlock is not much of a problem for those who have ‘defined’ the political process, the Constitution, Kurdistan, etc. etc. and the shape of things to come. Not only “Freedom is messy”, “Democracy” can be messier. Has anybody read about the new ELIG’s?
 
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Iran has come up before. Is there any chance ever that Iran and Iraqi patriots will not consider each other enemies?

I think Iran does want US troops in Iraq coming under continuous fire. That situation means the US will not attack Iran.

Iraqi nationalists do not want Americans to be in Iraq and Iran does, but the solution to that dispute can't be to ally with the Americans. Not for Iraqi nationalists.

Other than that temporary situation, I don't see a natural enmity between Iran and Iraq.

In the long term, Iran wants Iraq to be friendly, and pilgrims to be able to go back and forth between the holy sites but I don't see any long term need for Iran to dominate Iraq or to ensure that Iraq remains poor or militarily weak.

Israel has a small population and a possibly permanent problem in the refugees who were driven out to form the country.

Israel needs for any Arab country not under permanent and reliable US/Israeli control to be militarily and economically weak.

The United States, for reasons I have discussed earlier wants whatever Israel wants.

The US/Israel has a real structural enmity with Iraq. Iran does not, except for Iran's temporary opportunistic behavior in taking advantage of the fact that the US is tied down.

Iran under the Shah was allied with the United States and Israel and an enemy of Iraq. After the revolution, Iranian policy completely reversed course. If Hussein had been a statesman, Iraq would have allied with Iran.

I'm reminded of Jonas Savimbi who accepted aid from South Africa to fight his guerilla war because for some reason he convinced himself that the MPLA was a worse enemy than the South Africans.

He died a disgrace to the entire continent of Africa and an international laughing stock.

I see a lot of Savimbi in Allawi.

The Americans will give him a lot of money and maybe he can buy some votes. But if the Iraqi people would even consider supporting him that is really sad to see.
 
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Dear Abu Khaleel,

are your electoral predictions based on the way people will actually vote, according to your knowledge of the popular mood, or are they an idea, instead, of the 'final' results as they'll be proclaimed?

After the constitutional referendum 'result', I feel that vote fraud is systemic in the 'new' Iraq, especially in the provinces ruled by some Government parties and by their militias; so I'm wondering whether your only 99 seats for the United Iraqi Alliance, though reflecting a drop in support and the growing dissatisfaction with those sectarian parties, will be the seats that list actually gets, or instead they'll manage to rig the results so as to have 120 or 130 seats. The same question goes for the Kurdish coalition, at least in the three provinces they totally control.

In other words, are your predictions taking into account the foreseeable vote fraud, or not?
 
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Circular --

I also had a mental picture of our host - with no basis in reality whatsoever - of a thinner, bespectacled version of the Salahuddin character in the film Kingdom of Heaven, tapping away at a keyboard. :) No doubt we are both wrong ...

Abu Khaleel --

I sincerely wish that I were hopelessly deluded instead of close to the truth. Is there any silver lining at all?
 
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Yes, me me, I’ve heard of ELIGs. Enemies of the Lousy Iraqi Government. In theory you are one of them, Abu, with your scepticism about the whole business. Rumsfeld wouldn’t approve.
The Times Online roughly agrees with your numbers:

"In theory the new parliament should accurately represent the political aspirations of the Iraqi people as well as reflect the country's complex sectarian and ethnic mix.
The Shia alliance, which dominates the current assembly, is expected to emerge as the largest party with some 100 seats. It has the overwhelming support of the country's Shia Muslim majority of 60 per cent.
The coalition of the two dominant parties in northern Kurdistan is expected to come second with about 50 seats.
Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister, is tipped to come in third with about 35 seats. His secular party has support from Iraq's urban middle class in cities like Baghdad, Mosul and Basra.
Twafak, a Sunni Muslim alliance, should come in fourth with about 25 seats. The rest of the parliamentary seats will go to smaller parties or individuals.
A new government will need to be able to muster a two thirds majority, which means it will have to include three of the major parties. It is hoped that this will force rival sectarian groups to cooperate."

Because if they don’t, they will be ELIGs too, won’t they?
Isn’t the key problem for the future of Iraq the fact that the two largest parties, the Shia and Kurds, actually have very little in common except for their past oppression? Hardly a sound basis for a coalition.
As I understand it, a two-thirds majority is only needed for selecting the Presidents, the Government can function on 50%. Is there any chance of the Shia cobbling together an Arab coalition of 140 seats, i.e. themselves plus Allawi and some of the minor/independent parties? Would this be a good thing?
My bet is it will again take a couple of months to pull it all together.
Circular
 
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vMr. Democracy,

I know that you know that the Iraqi relationship with Iran is quite a complex one. People simply hold too many contradictory feelings. Personally, I gave Iran the benefit of the doubt, as it were. Believe it or not, I understand their need to defend their country. I can even (reluctantly) accept their need to do that in Iraq. However, they are doing it their own way with very little regard for human life… and they have been going too far. They haven’t been very considerate of the fate of this country in their political dealings either.

Remember those two unfortunate British soldiers caught red-handed with explosives in Basra a while back? A couple of days ago, in one Baghdad neighborhood, 4 Iranians were caught planting explosive. There was a shootout with residents (not the police). Two of them were killed, two were captured. I don’t know whether that incident has made it to the news. There are simply too many similar incidents. One simply feels that this is going too far.

Having said that, I still believe that, as countries, our differences with Iran are reconcilable, without much difficulty… but not down this road.

Italian,

I had some of the ‘local’ mischief in the back of my mind when I put those figures in, based on previous experience. But I did not include any possible ‘central’ doctoring if that’s what you mean.

Bruno,

Don’t be too depressed. That picture does not make me lose hope completely, not in Iraq. Besides, I hope that in this post we are discussing the “official” political forces. There are numerous other forces that we did not mention.

Although the US game in Iraq is now in the hands of ‘more professional’ people, I guess they too will be surprised. You cannot fully control what you do not know.

So, I believe there is a ‘silver lining’, otherwise, I would not stay here. Perhaps it was my fault. But that post was already too long and boring as it is. Try and think back to other things I have said elsewhere.

BTW, I haven’t seen the film Kingdom of Heaven, so I cannot confirm. Keep trying! It already makes me sad to think that Circular must be green with envy regarding the ‘balding’ bit. I’m sorry I can’t help there.

Circular,

I guess I am an ELIG if you look at it this way. How shocking!

Very gracious of the Times, isn’t it? Does that confirm your view of me as a hopeless conservative?

I agree with you that the haggling and the horse-trading may take some doing and some time. I am hopelessly disinterested in political wheeling and dealing. The Kurds and the religious Shiites have been drifting apart for a while now, but they and Allawi are ‘natural’ allies. It seems it will be between Allawi and Adel abdul Mahdi. Can we come back to discuss that after the elections? Even then, I wouldn’t be the best person to shed light on that subject.
 
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Abu Khaleel –

[ak] “BTW, I haven’t seen the film Kingdom of Heaven, so I cannot confirm.”

More’s the pity.

It is well worth a watch, given that the director has gone to lengths not to ‘take sides’ and to portray the conflict in an impartial, if somewhat stylised manner. The central message is very relevant to today’s conflict, and the story itself is not half bad either.

The boorish behaviour of the Crusaders is unfortunately true to history … when I was young I had idealised images in my head of the ‘noble’ Crusaders fighting the ‘wicked’ Arabs … LOL … it was a cruel blow when I picked up my first serious book on the subject!
 
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Abu Khaleel,

You miss Bruno's point completely. For Bruno, Iraq MUST be a disaster. He would LOVE to see millions of Iraqis die in chaos just so he could thumb his nose at the US. His virulent anti-Americanism has been well documented in the Iraqi blogosphere over the last two years.

Bruno is down on his knees as we speak praying for the deaths of Iraqis.

Let's be clear about this.

In a few weeks Iraq will have the only Arab-dominant represenative democracy in the region and Bruno will be praying for Zarqawi to successfully create a civil war.

Abu Khaleel, if you think Bruno, a South African, is your friend, then you are deluded.

*
 
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Jeffrey, I have seen variants of your "argument" above many times. None of the variants are rational at all.

Generally, the accusation is that people who warn about negative consequences are really hoping for those negative consequences.

That is like ignoring the warnings of a person who advises you not to lie down in the middle of the road because you will likely be run over by a car -- and then accusing that person of having wanted you to be run over, after it happens.

It's absurd.

Btw, I am sure Abu Khaleel is quite capable of determining for himself who is or is not is friend.
 
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Lampless in P-town,

In a few hours MILLIONS of Iraqis will vote in a representative parliamentary election.

How do you feel about that?

Shouldn't Iraqis enjoy freedom of speech and voting rights too?

I'm positive Iraq will be a success and you and Bruno can't do a thing about it. Sorry. The Americans WIN again. The Japanese and the Germans are successful, well-functioning democracies THANKS TO AMERICANS and so will Iraqi be.

Suck on it.

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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
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Well there you go, Bruno mate. Now you’ve been told!
You are Anti-American!
You poor fool. You are anti-greed. You are anti-self-interest. Anti-corruption. Anti-bullying. Anti-ignorance. Anti-propaganda.
You are anti-violence, anti-torture.
You disapprove of large over-armed nations throwing their weight around in a foolish and blundering fashion - going to war on a foundation of lies and delusions - conducting the most ludicrous and mismanaged occupation and "liberation" in history.
Silly, silly man. Why don’t you want to see a democratically elected anti-American theocracy in a dismembered Iraq? That’s freedom, isn’t it?
Watch out or Jeffrey will come and do South Africa next. You may not have oil but you’ve got all those diamonds, haven’t you?

Sorry Abu. I like Bruno. I had a dog called Bruno once.
Circular
 
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Jeffrey, a classic example of:

The Fifth American: Personally, this particular American has been a source of fascination for me over the past two years! These Americans are dead set on supporting this administration no matter what! They will not listen; they will not consider; they will not budge; full stop. No amount of reason, debate or argument, will produce any change of position. Not even facts will incite any prospect of reconsideration. I personally have given up trying to address them. They are mainly an American problem, but they have also indirectly done much damage to the world. This group includes the super-religious, the super-patriots, the super-haters, bigots and the super-dead-set! Even today, with the lies being slowly uncovered, massacres in Iraq being exposed, torture scandals exposed for all the world to see, “war on terror” being demonstrated to have been a disaster… these people refuse to acknowledge any of these things. With ready-made excuses, some of them incredibly flimsy, they will simply attack, attack and then attack any view point that they don’t agree with.
 
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Circular,

I can plainly see you think that Iraqis do not deserve to have voting rights and freedom of speech.

Let Iraqis vote for whomever they want.

They will have to live with their choices for four years. Then they'll have a chance to change their minds, if they wish.

*
 
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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
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Circular,

What country are YOU from?

I'm proud to be an American.

How about you? Are you proud to be a follower of Kim Jong-Il?

Let's hear what country YOU are from, and THEN we'll talk.

*
 
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For the record, I am all for freedom.

However, believing that current US foreign policy has altruistic motivations is hopelessly naive.

The Bush administration doesn't give a damn about the Iraqi people. All this talk about promoting democracy in Iraq is a smokescreen for the real motivation -- namely establishing a compliant puppet state, complete with US military bases, in the heart of the middle east to establish strategic control over the oil reserves.

That was from the beginning the chief motivation for the invasion of Iraq, and remains so. However, the Bush administration being hopelessly incompetent, its plans have gone awry, with events in Iraq spinning out of its control.

Meanwhile, deluded super-patriots like Jeffrey shrilly yell that everything is going according to some altruistic master plan to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq. LOL.
 
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I have just got in at the end of what seems to be a lively debate… and I can’t stay long!

Diagenes, good to see you here again.

I have just deleted a couple of offensive remarks and if you don’t mind, I would like to go right back to the original comment by Jeffry:

Jeffry,

I am sorry, but I don’t know you. Bruno has been contributing to the debate of this blog for more than a year now. I know him well. What makes you think that I should take your advice seriously? Have you bothered to read my post? Probably not, otherwise you would not have commented the way that you did.

I guess I would have had to take you more seriously had you offered some rational argument and not just slander and your “supernatural assumptions” about somebody else thousands of miles away being “down on his knees as we speak praying for the deaths of Iraqis.”

I would have also taken you more seriously if your statement was more original or even a borrowed correct one. It was neither:

Your words are from:
http://jarrarsupariver.blogspot.com/2005/12/vahals-dream-and-iraqi-elections.html

“Oh, and as Iraqis become the first Arab-dominant Middle Eastern country to elect a representative government”

You then write (without quoting your reference):

“In a few weeks Iraq will have the only Arab-dominant represenative democracy in the region”

Despite the rephrasing, this statement is unfortunately both borrowed and incorrect. If we restrict ourselves to Iraq alone… had you known a bit more, you would have known that Iraq had “representative government” for more than three decades prior to 1958… but what is the significance of a few historic details between friends?

BTW, I like the "Arab-dominant" bit. Full of insinuations that say more about you than you think! “Friendship” inspired things, I mean.
 
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Abu Khaleel,

This is funny. I am the Jeffrey who runs Iraqi Bloggers Central and who counts many Iraqis as my friends. I am quoting ... myself. I have been friends with the ITM brothers and Hammorabi Sam and Fayrouz and all the others for over two years now.

Well hello, Abu Khaleel, we've had you on our sidebar for a long time. It's my first time commenting here.

Listen, I know both the history of the region and Iraq's history. I said that Iraq will have the only "Arab-dominant representative democracy" in the region NOW. Turkey has an elected parliament, as does Israel, and that's why I had to add the "Arab-dominant." It's not the smoothest-sounding adjective, to be sure, but it gets the job done, I think.

Iraqis have a lot to be proud of. They've shown patience and intelligence over the last three years and in just 24 hours or so they will have gone to the polls THREE TIMES in one year.

How do you think the others in the neighborhood are feeling?

To all Iraqis, live long and prosper.

*
 
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Abu Khaleel,

And let me restate my point. I've known Bruno for that last couple years too. Anti-Americanism is the only thing that animates him. I am positive that he would be perfectly happy to see Iraq fall apart if it meant that George Bush and the Americans could then be blamed.

Ask Bruno what he thinks about the fact that Iraqis now live with true freedom of speech.

Ask Bruno how he feels about MILLIONS of Iraqis getting ready to vote, the vast majority casting the first important ballot in their lives.

Ask Bruno what he is going to say when Iraq becomes the most successful country in the region.

Ask Bruno how those thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers protecting the voting stations are feeling RIGHT NOW about their country as their fellow citizens vote.

Bottom line. Bruno is not a true friend to the Iraqis. Of this I am positive.

*
 
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One more point.

I've lived both in Germany (West Germany before 1989) and Japan, two countries whose totalitarian regimes were destroyed thanks to my father's generation. Today both of those countries are wonderful places to live or visit.

I hope that one day I'll be able to live in Iraq too.

*
 
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Jeffrey:
If you had the commonsense and courtesy to read back through just a few of the discussions that have taken place on this Blog, before sounding off, you would know that I, Circular, am a New Zealander.
You would also have found me pointing out at tedious length that our country is a much much more democratic, just and free society than the USA can ever hope to be. (And, incidentally, one which sacrificed far more lives, proportionately, to defeat the Nazi and Japanese dictatorships than the USA did.)
You would also have found me saying that I don’t give a damn about Muslim sectarian differences, being totally secular myself, and that I don’t even mind the USA taking it upon itself to "liberate" Iraq, if you really felt you absolutely had to. My objection has always been to the absolute mess, botch-up, balls-up, catastrophe that you have made of the job. Because of your bigotted deluded leadership, and your unnecessarily brutal military. Who can’t even handle a few thousand lightly-armed insurgents without killing literally thousands of innocent civilians.
You would have found me objecting to the sorry spectacle of the self-appointed superpower, in its ignorance and arrogance, proving itself to be a paper tiger, and object of derision and contempt from the rest of the civilised world. When under different leadership you could be the major force for good in the world. I’m pretty old, I remember the Peace Corps guys I knew in my youth. They were real Americans.
You would find out all this and more if you bothered to read back a little.
But you won’t, will you? Too much like hard work.
Bah!
Circular
 
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Jeffrey,

As a pro-Assyrian opponent of the war, I find your comments deeply disturbing if not worse.

I have watched as the Chaldean/Assyrian/Syriac community in Iraq, which feared for its freedoms under Saddam, increasingly comes to fear for the loss of its very existence. This is due to both policies and blunders of the Americans, and to the policies and actions of our Kurdish and SCIRI Iraqi allies, as well as the various terrorist groups.

Personally, I would rather have found myself wrong rather than having my fears and worries re-confirmed as I examine ASSYRIAN (NOT left-wing) news items.

Could the invasion/occupation have been handled in such a way as to assuage the fears of many anti-war folks? Yes! Abu Khaleel has presented, in his Rapid Democracy in Iraq blog (and in the Arabic version, so I believe) a number of good ideas which would have resulted in a CURRENTLY fairly stable, peaceful Iraq.

In April of 2003 I asked about whether there would be a substantial number of troops with a minimal command of Iraqi Arabic (the answer was 'no'). Troops are NOW being trained in Iraqi culture with, I am told, the focus on identifying terrorists.

My mother worked in Berlin for the US government after World War II, and the whole atmosphere was entirely different from modern Baghdad. There was no need for a Berlin 'Green Zone'. It was quite safe to travel the country, and those working with the Americans were not being assassinated.

I'll climb off my soap-box now, with apologies to Abu Khaleel, Bruno, Circular, etc.

Nehwe shlama bar'a/May there be peace on the earth
Bob Griffin
 
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Well, well, well.

Was it Halloween last night, for all the worms and the trolls to come out of the woodwork?

Naturally I refer to Jeffrey, my ever – elusive, wanna-be nemesis.

I think that his remarks are more than a little self-evident, but the facts, for those that are not that well acquainted with this particularly loathsome individual, are quite simple. Not only does he regard Arabs as less than men, but he has a particular contempt for Islam, completely out of proportion to any uneducated reaction to the torrent of anti-Islam propaganda spewed by the Zionists and far right Americans.

He wishes for the US plans of economic and cultural reshaping of Iraq to succeed to their fullest possible extent, and death to those who might have a different view. I have ample quotations and excerpts with which to demonstrate these pearls of wisdom of his.

Not that I feel the need to defend myself, particularly amongst a group of people who know me, but if I truly wanted to see the US go down in flames I would have been:

(1) Urging the Kurds to break away from Iraq and unilaterally declare independence, thereby precipitating a confrontation with Turkey and squeezing the US in the middle.
(2) Urging the Americans to attack Iran at all costs and playing up to their natural paranoia about others being: ‘jealous of their freedom’ and wanting to ‘enslave’ their children. A war against Iran would spell the end of the US as an imperial power for a few years, I do believe.
(3) Making as much noise to Muslims as possible about the American plans to “destroy Islam” and convert them to Christianity – in order to enflame suspicions that many Muslims already have. Despite the many evils I accuse the US of, I truly believe that destroying Islam is not a primary aim … influencing or perverting it maybe. The US is driven by a desire for money and power that is pornographic in intensity … religion comes as a lesser part of the package.

It is obvious that any of these three routes would be detrimental to the position of the US … at a great cost to the common people of the region … yet I have not embarked on such a course.

Rather, I have said the opposite.

Kinda sad for a die-hard anti-American, wouldn’t one say?

Of course, having said that, I AM anti-American. I don’t feel that I need to apologise for deriding the current (and previous) US foreign policy as immoral and disgusting. I don’t feel the need to apologise for pointing this out, or for injuring the fragile sensibilities of nuts like Jeffrey. I don’t feel the need to apologise for opposing a unipolar world that is dominated by a single foreign power pulling the strings behind the scenes and using violence to achieve its aims when the strings snap.

Some questions for me:

[j] “Ask Bruno what he thinks about the fact that Iraqis now live with true freedom of speech.”

If that were true, I would be very happy. But not only are (US-instigated) sectarian forces in play trying to drown out each other’s voices by violence, but the US itself has done much to destroy ‘true’ freedom of speech. Remember the killing of unarmed demonstrators in Fallujah? Remember the bombing of Al Jazeera? Remember the forced closure of Al Sadr’s newspaper? Ah, true freedom of speech, eh?

This sick individual must be seen in the light of being a “Fifth American”. When he says ‘freedom of speech’, he means speech that praises US policy or that does not contradict it. Alternatives are to be drowned out, or destroyed.

[j] “Ask Bruno how he feels about MILLIONS of Iraqis getting ready to vote, the vast majority casting the first important ballot in their lives.”

Hey, that’s fine, great. No thanks to YOU, though, even though you would like to claim the credit for it.

THESE were the American plans for Iraq, REMEMBER?

http://www.fair.org/extra/0404/c...4/ caucuses.html

“…Unlike the system envisioned for Iraq, our caucuses are generally open to the public, or at least to anyone who chooses to register as a party member. In Iraq, however, the "caucuses" envisioned are to be closed to the public, with participants handpicked by "organizing committees" set up in each section of the country. The committees consist of 15 individuals handpicked by the Iraqi Governing Council as well as by provincial and local councils--each of which, in turn, were hand-picked by the U.S. The local "notables" chosen to participate in the caucuses would then agree on members of a Transitional Assembly, which, in turn, would appoint the new government. At no point would the public be involved…” [hat tip Ibn Battutah]

Now that these plans have fallen apart, the US is funding it’s CIA asset Allawi to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in a bid to ‘elect’ its own patsy to power, while simultaneously playing on sectarian differences to facilitate his ascension to power. Naturally America brooks NO such foreign intervention in its OWN political affairs, since funding from foreign countries for local political parties is absolutely prohibited.


[j] “Ask Bruno what he is going to say when Iraq becomes the most successful country in the region.”

Nothing would make me happier. Of course, Iraq already WAS in a pretty good position in the past, before wars and sanctions ruined it.

[j] “Ask Bruno how those thousands of Iraqi police and soldiers protecting the voting stations are feeling RIGHT NOW about their country as their fellow citizens vote.”

Gee, I don’t know, are you talking about the SHIA, the SUNNIS or the KURDS - since such distinctions have become SO important in the ‘new and improved’ Iraq?

[j] “Bottom line. Bruno is not a true friend to the Iraqis. Of this I am positive.”

Bottom line. Jeffrey is a genuine 5th American and a bona fide nut. Of this I am positive.




[circular] “Silly, silly man. Why don’t you want to see a democratically elected anti-American theocracy in a dismembered Iraq? That’s freedom, isn’t it?”

It IS?? Crumbs, so I’ve been wrong all this time? ;)


[circular] Watch out or Jeffrey will come and do South Africa next. You may not have oil but you’ve got all those diamonds, haven’t you?

Diamonds, gold, uranium, coal … hmm … now that you mention all that, perhaps it IS time to emigrate. I’d hate to be ‘liberated’ any time soon.

[circular] Sorry Abu. I like Bruno. I had a dog called Bruno once.

And a fine dog it was too …



[Diogenes] “Not even facts will incite any prospect of reconsideration. I personally have given up trying to address them.”

We can still laugh at them, can’t we? Although, when poking fun at these types, I automatically have a twang of conscience that the Diogenes’ and Marks of America might think I was including them. For future reference – I’m not. How is that novel coming along, btw?


[Abu Khaleel] “I am sorry, but I don’t know you. Bruno has been contributing to the debate of this blog for more than a year now. I know him well. What makes you think that I should take your advice seriously?”

Shukran for your words. Jeffrey is indeed the originator of the ‘jarrarsupariver’ blog. Every now and again he gets an itch in his pants and rushes around distributing his manure across every Iraqi blog he can find. If you have any doubt as to his credentials, take a browse through his archives (I recommend latex gloves and breathing apparatus) and see for yourself.
 
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People, our company is closing for Christmas, so I'll probably only visit here again next year. To all of you, and especially Abu Khaleel, keep safe, and I'll see you on the flipside.
 
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Have a good holiday, Bruno.
Look, there's a Jeffrey!
Fetch, boy, fetch!
Grrrrrrrrrrr!
Gooooood dog!
 
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This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
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Jeffrey,

Thank you for your wishes. I would have hoped that you have realized by now that this blog is not a propaganda platform. You have made your position clear; people who are interested in what you have to say can visit your blog.
 
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Abu Khaleel,

I don't recall writing anything that could be construed as "propaganda" in that last post. I simply remarked how happy I was that Iraqis voted in such large numbers today. I mentioned the interview with Vahal because whether you like it or not he is Iraqi too.

On some issues we will agree and on others we will disagree. That's fine and to be expected. I do not expect, however, a simple post wishing Iraqis a wonderful future to be mischaracterized as "propaganda."

*
 
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From Bruno:

"Now that these plans have fallen apart, the US is funding it’s CIA asset Allawi to the tune of tens of millions of dollars in a bid to ‘elect’ its own patsy to power, while simultaneously playing on sectarian differences to facilitate his ascension to power. Naturally America brooks NO such foreign intervention in its OWN political affairs, since funding from foreign countries for local political parties is absolutely prohibited."

This was the point I was trying to make. The election will not be decided by the votes but by the political process after the votes. And in that process there is the US Embassy distributing suitcases full of cash.

As bad as it would be for the US to buy the prime minister position for Allawi, it would be worse for any Iraqis to interpret that purchase as a victory for Sunnis over Shiites or over Iran.

Taking the government away from the Shiites who are the majority of the population will turn the Shiites against the Americans. The question as far as the stability of Iraq is concerned is that when the Shiites turn against the Americans, will the Sunnis be their allies or enemies?

I hope the Sunnis can come up with a way to be allies. The idea that Iran has long term designs beyond there being a government that is much more friendly to them than Hussein was -- which is an idea that I am not convinced is true -- tends to give me less hope.
 
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well, abu, after fresh elections turbulences and chewy discussions, we shall all wait and see what comes out of that... in the meantime i was very glad to read your post about civil society taking initiative. i'm talking about your 'Tribal Pact' post at A Glimpse of Iraq. Kataba! very shukran for that! :)
 
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Bruno wrote: "How is that novel coming along, btw?"


Slowly. Decided I needed to do more historical research after all, so I have been doing more reading than writing.
 
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Abu Khaleel:

I though you might be interested in the post-election anaylsis of Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The link is http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/051221_iraqelection.pdf .

Mark-In-Chi-Town
 
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I came across this website and thought about here.

http://www.uruknet.com/?p=19109&hd=0&size=1&l=x

One of the Juan Cole ten myths about Iraq concerns religious extremism in Iraqi politics:

"There is a silent majority of middle class, secular-minded Iraqis who reject religious fundamentalism."

The facts of two elections appear to disprove this widely held hope. Or do they? The Americans wrote the Iraqi constitution in English, and were nice enough to translate it into Arabic so the Iraqis who were supposed to be drafting it actually got a chance to read it. American experts crafted each part of it, including how the government would be selected (and did so in a time frame mandated by American political concerns, thus not having enough time to deal with the most important issues of federalism). You would think that Americans crafting a constitution would have created an electoral system based on the Greatest Democracy in the World, the U. S. of A. But you'd be wrong. Instead of a first-past-the-post system which encourages the formation of broadly based parties which distinguish themselves primarily on class, a system which would have forced Iraqis to compromise on sectarian issues in order to create a broad enough base to have a chance at winning power, the Americans appear to have looked around for the best system they could find and fastened their hopes on the system used by . . . Israel. Yes, they picked absolutely the worst possible system, one guaranteed to encourage the formation of many tiny parties based on religious or ethnic differences, with the tiniest microparties with the craziest extremists ending up holding the balance of power. We'll never know if Juan Cole is right about the nature of the majority of Iraqi voters as Iraqi voters will never get a chance to vote for a sane party system.

After the Americans set up an electoral system guaranteed to create a theocratic state which will fall apart into civil war, they either lie about it, claiming the Iraqi elections were a great victory for democracy, or pretend to be shocked at the outcome.


It strikes me as plausible. This list system from the beginning struck me as very foreign, strange and unamerican.

I'd appreciate hearing from those more knowledgable than I the similarities and differences between the system installed by the Americans and other Parliamentary systems.
 
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Part of me died when I saw this cruel killing
The torture and execution of Atwar Bahjat.

Saddam Hussein's men did this.
 
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So, how's Iraq of today?
 
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