Carl Conetta of the Project on Defense Alternatives has produced a concise analysis of how the rules for this week’s elections in Iraq can potentially contribute to the further disaffection of the Sunni minority. Providing the basis for much of the insurgency against the government and the occupation, and both a target and a participant in the emerging civil war, the Sunnis will be excluded from proportionate representation in the new parliament. As Conetta points out, the Bush administration states that it “recognizes that the key to defusing the insurgency is drawing the Sunni Arab community into the political process,” and yet the specifics of the democratic process – which President Bush promises Americans will lead to peace, stability, and “victory” in Iraq – looks more and more like it can just as easily lead to resentment, embitterment, and greater enmity in Iraq.
Moreover, the Kurds in northern Iraq will be over-represented after the elections, and yet, as Andrew Cockburn explains in “Iraq’s Resilient Minority,” in this month’s Smithsonian magazine, the Kurdish region is certainly not the bastion of stability the Bush administration often implies by virtue of the relatively lesser violence there. In fact, the Kurdish minority has real potential to disintegrate into its previous factional violence, and the flames of independence continue to burn fiercely. Of course, an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq would provoke extreme, and most probably violent, reactions in Turkey and, quite possibly, Iran which house sizable Kurdish minorities. The potential for ever expanding chaos stemming from deteriorating conditions in Iraq is both frightening and endless.
A great deal is riding on the success of Thursday’s elections in Iraq, and yet there seems little basis for confidence that the right things have been done to guide the longer term results toward meaningful success, rather than prolonged disorder.