Monday, January 31, 2005

How U.S. missteps may cloud Iraqi vote

San Jose Mercury News
How U.S. missteps may cloud Iraqi vote
: "Posted on Sun, Jan. 23, 2005

San Jose Mercury News--Perspective Section P-1
Sunday, January 23, 2005
How U.S. missteps may cloud Iraqi vote

By William O. Beeman

The United States was determined from the outset to keep religious Shiites from power in Iraq. The administration's assumption is that governments based in Islamic law are dangerous to the United States and that Iran's religious rulers would gain more control of the region if their fellow Shiites took over in Baghdad.
Just one week before the scheduled Iraqi elections, the administration is just where it didn't want to be. There are two ``lists'' of candidates most likely to win the majority of Assembly seats in the upcoming elections -- and one of them consists of predominantly religious Shiites. The second list, also mostly Shiite, is openly secular and backed by the United States.
It is probably no surprise, then, that the United States has tried to help the secular slate to victory, including by facilitating up to a million Iraqis living outside the country -- a group perceived as more secular -- to vote. At the top of that slate is Ayad Allawi, the current prime minister. The U.S.-backed Allawi is a former Baathist who broke with Saddam Hussein and later was associated with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. If he continues in power, he almost certainly will favor a continued U.S. presence in Iraq.
Among the many unanswered questions in next Sunday's election -- beyond whether militant Sunnis will hopelessly disrupt the voting -- are whether U.S. support will help or hurt the Allawi slate and whether the United States will try to control the outcome of the election further.
Will the U.S. military, for instance, work hard to ensure calm in more secular Baghdad to let more voters get to the polls"