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July 21, 2008


potential widespread fraud/shpaing operations

I was going to ask snarkily what those "shpaing" operations are (sounds painful!), but reading your other post confirms that the intended word was 'shaping'.

So what are 'political shaping operations vis a vis the Sadrists'? Is that a polite reference to efforts to force their representatives off local councils, or to the military operations in areas that have been quiet but Sadrist, as in Amara? Or both? Or something else?

McCain 08: That's How the World Will End!

Nell: All of the above

Eric, you seem determined to see the cloud in every silver lining. Caution is good, but this begins to look like sour grapes. You obviously know a lot more about the factions than I do, but just based on what you say here:

1) If AF couldn't work with the Maliki government before, and withdrew, it seems likely that it returned now because it now sees more to gain -- it is more willing to deal or thinks it can get a better deal. Its return is a better sign than its original membership.

2) I'd much rather see a major Sunni group try to hang on by counting the ballots than by shooting the voters, if that's the choice.

3) Not all quid pro quos are evil. In this situation, even a corrupt quid pro quo could be an improvement. Even if the quid pro quo favors the AF leadership at its members' expense, the added stability may be a net gain for the members, and for Iraq as a whole. Anything that gives Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq more of a chance to re-build economic & political alliances is a plus.

Look at our own history: an ugly bargain between North and South in 1787 pushed the problem of slavery up the road, which led to a horrific war, but meanwhile gave the country a chance to become a country so that there was a basis to rebuild after that war. Arguably, a corrupt bargain for Hayes' electoral votes pushed the problem of civil rights up the road, with great costs but also great benefits. If this is the beginning of a corrupt bargaining process that papers over flaws and pushes problems up the road, I'm all for it if that a) lets us get out of there, and b) gives Iraq a few decades to sort itself out peaceably. Who knows, maybe the horse will learn to sing.


Perhaps, but this tendency has served me well over the past 5+ years. Throughout that period of time, we have been treated to a series of supposed turning points, paradigm shifts and breakthroughs in Iraq. The "cloud in every silver lining" interpretation was correct each time. Without exception. That's a pretty compelling track record.

In response:

1. Not if AF is returning because of the regional elections. That is, if it simply wants to use the governmemtal machinery vis-a-vis its Sunni rivals that are more popular than AF in many Sunni regions (if not more popular overall). If that is the case, then this is an undemocratic move which will likely lead to further frustration, fighting and abandonment of the political process on the part of the Sunni population that is shut out.

2. I don't see why that's the choice. It wasn't the last time.

3. Not sure what you mean by this. It could be a positive if something approaching, or equaling, a majority of Sunnis are de facto disenfranchised in favor of the AF? I suppose, but I remain pessimistic.

It's possible, but I see no reason to suddenly develop an affection for self-serving GOP spin that just happens to be popping up during a US presidential election.

Especially when I've heard the same arguments before.

Eric, re point 1, thanks, I see more clearly what you're driving at. Re point 2, you could definitely have both ballot fraud and bullets, but I read your post as saying that a change from violence to election fraud was a step down. Re general distrust, I agree that we have to discount US Gov't spin (or anybody else's), but that doesn't mean there can't be positive developments. Re point 3...this ties into point 1. If AF is just using the existing mechanisms of government to prop itself up, that still forces it to cooperate with and legitimize the government to some extent. It will retain a lot of support even if it does what you think it may with the elections -- look how much support Fatah retains after years of corruption and collaboration. So even that scenario should involve a substantial increase in Sunni engagement and participation.

Re point 2, you could definitely have both ballot fraud and bullets, but I read your post as saying that a change from violence to election fraud was a step down.

No. The AF contested the last election through ballots. And other Sunni insurgent groups largely backed off the process and let Sunnis vote. So last time, there was a political process without attendant violence. I want this time to be no different, but the way things are going, I'm not so sure.

I'm afraid that there could be more election related violence in the lead up to this round of elections (and during and after) than the last.

There already has been with respect to targeting the Sadrist trend. Now the Sunni vs. Sunni clashes are heating up. And if the AF rigs the election, all bets are off.

I don't think the Awakenings crowd will go gently into that good night.

Modesto Mouso!

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