Now that what was being called the most important election of our lifetime is over, there is another one coming up that Americans need to keep their eye on. The election in Iraq may not be of the same importance to us as the one that kept President Bush in the White House, but it is definitely worth watching. This is not because the outcome will have any real effect on the situation in Iraq, but rather because it will test the resolve of the U.S. coalition.
This monumental election will be held on Jan. 30, barring a further increase in violence, which U.S. officials warn may either keep certain areas of Iraq from participating or will just postpone it altogether. This election is supposed to be a major battle in the war to make Iraq safe for democracy, and U.S. forces will not leave before it takes place.
The three major groups living in Iraq are the Shiites, who make up the majority of the Iraqi populace, followed by the Sunnis and the Kurds, the minority. While none of these groups get along with each other, they dislike the U.S. presence in their country even more. The outcome of the election is going to be heavily determined by how many of these groups participate and to what extent.
Already, this situation looks bleak. In early November, the Iraqi Islamic Party withdrew from the interim government. The major Sunni political group attacked the government and asked their people to boycott the upcoming election, which may hurt the chances of holding a completely democratic election.
But, there never was much of a possibility for a democratic election in the first place. There is no such thing in an occupied country. We cannot even be completely sure our own election was free from tampering, so it would be foolish to expect the next leader of Iraq will be elected legitimately by the people.
In Afghanistan’s presidential election last October, 13 of the 18 candidates reported being asked to withdraw from the election by the U.S. ambassador, who offered them a cabinet position as a bribe, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Hypothetically, even if the election was democratic, and someone the United States did not favor was elected, we can not realistically expect the coalition to just hand over the reins and be on their way. America is not going to leave Iraq in the hands of someone who uses the phrase “Western infidels” in his inaugural address.
Whatever the outcome of the election, it won’t change the sentiment of the Iraqi people, and it will not be a ticket home for our soldiers. From a military standpoint, things are not going to get better with the casting of a few votes. In the recent invasion into Falluja, many Iraqi troops deserted the operation, unwilling to confront insurgents.
In addition, several members of the U.S.-led coalition have either confirmed or hinted that they may be leaving Iraq in the near future.
While the Netherlands said they would be withdrawing in March, several other countries, such as Italy, have suggested they could be leaving sometime soon. At least we know that even if the election does take place, we’ll be shouldering more of the military burden in Iraq than ever.
The outcome of this election is not going to change a thing. The leader of Iraq will still be in America’s pocket. The Iraqi people are still going to want us out of their country, and there will still be daily violence. The U.S. coalition is still going to be on a wild goose chase for insurgents, from Falluja to Samarra, and then back again.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com.