Dr. Irak, back from a recent trip to Iraq, refers to notes that “many U.S. commanders, coalition officials, and Iraqis expressed growing concerns that the “Powers That Be” (Dawa, ISCI, the IIP, PUK, and KDP) will use their monopoly on official power — including their dominance of governors, provincial councils, and the Iraqi Security forces — to tilt the provincial elections in their favor against the “Powers That Aren’t” (the Sadrists, Awakening groups, independents, and secularists).” Like Jim Henley I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see election-rigging of just that sort, but I’m a bit skeptical that these are “growing concerns.” As Jim says, the United States strongly backed the anti-Sadr operation in Basra that laid the groundwork for electoral hijinks.
The difference is that once upon a time the Powers That Be were seemingly friendly to a permanent bases deal, so it was important for us to help them maintain power by hook or by crook. It turns out, however, that a more confident Nouri al-Maliki isn’t really any more interested in paying host to an open-ended US military occupation than Muqtada al-Sadr is. Under the circumstances, US officials are perhaps suddenly more inclined toward skepticism about Maliki’s democratic credentials. Either way, as long as we follow the perverse continuing the operation is the goal of the operation mindset success will, of course, always remain just beyond the horizon.