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Date Posted: Sun, February 06 2005, 13:52:08
Author: Jeff Northridge
Author Host/IP: dialup-4.246.30.211.Dial1.SanJose1.Level3.net / 4.246.30.211
Subject: Some Feeble Answers
In reply to: Wayne 's message, "Re: Must See video: Iraqi Election" on Sat, February 05 2005, 11:37:18

Howdy Wayne;

I'll try to answer your questions to the best of my limited knowledge, but as Will Rodgers used to say, "I only know what I read in the newspapers."

1) Yes. The Arab Shiites of Iraq comprise about 60% of the population with the Arab Sunnis 20%, Kurds 15%, and Turkoman, Assyrian, or other 5%. Furthermore, the Shi'a and Kurds voted in large numbers (close to 70%). Since the 275 member Iraqi National Assemby will be filled according to the percentage of votes received by each of over 100 political parties, it is likely that the Shi'a will emerge with a clear majority in the Assembly. It is also likely that the Sunni will have less than their fair share of representation in the Assembly not because they were intimidated by the terrorists any more than anybody else, but because the council of Sunni clerics and two major Sunni political parties called for a boycott of the elections--a dumb move on their part which they are not likely to repeat in the future at the next scheduled National-Assembly election in Dec., 2005.

2) The Grand Ayatollah Sistani is the supreme spiritual leader of the Iraqi Shi'a, but the Iraqi Shiite clerics seldom get directly involved in politics (except for that young hothead, al Sadr, and Sistani clipped his wings for being too radical.) I doubt if there's any collusion going on between the Iraqi and Iranian Shi'a at least not at the highest clerical levels. They both have different interpretations of Islam, speak different languages, and are of two distinct ethnic groups (Arab and Persian respectively).

3) I doubt if the Shiites have any intention of oppressing the Sunnis or the Kurds either for that matter. Nobody wants a three-way civil war. However, the Sunnis will have to get used to the idea of accepting a representation in the national government commensurate with their population. Local provincial governments will probably be dominated by whatever group happens to be in the majority in that particular region. The Iraqi interim constitution has provisions for protecting minority rights and these are likely to be retained when the permanant constitution is finalized perhaps as early as Aug., 2005. In other words, the idea that millions of Sunnis are going to be lined up against a wall and machine gunned to death by the Shiites is completely absurd. It just isn't going to happen.

4) Although there will be a few Shiite clerics in the National Assembly, the vast majority of assemblymen and women will be lay people. Personally, I have no reason to suspect that the Shi'a have any plans to impose an Iranian-style theocracy on Iraq. Whether the Sunnis believe this or not is anyone's guess. The Sunnis seem to be more upset over their loss of power (which they held for 50 years) than they are about any fear of the Shiites.

5) Yes, that is true more or less [see 1) above]. However, the polling places in the Sunni Triangle were not exactly "vacant". Precise numbers are not yet available, but it looks like only 25% of the eligible Sunni voters went to the polls.

6) The problem with the Kurds goes back to the end of World War I when the victorious Allies busted up the Ottoman Empire and failed to create a separate state for the Kurds who are now primarily distributed in southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, and northern Iran. In order to preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq and to prevent a Turkish invasion into northern Iraq, the Iraqi Kurds have agreed to remain loyal to the Iraqi government in exchange for a high degree of local self-autonomy.

7) As the Iraqi Army becomes stronger and more experienced and more competant, you will see a slow, gradual withdrawl of coallition forces. I would estimate that the U.S. won't be completely out of Iraq for another five years although the current troop strength of 150,000 will be steadily reduced at a rate of about 30,000/yr.

No, I don't think that the recent elections will do anything to reduce the hatred towards the West--at least not on the part of the Islamic fundamentalist extremists. Western ideas such as freedom of speech, democracy, equal rights for women, free-market economies, etc. are seen as direct threats to orthodox Islam and Sharia law. As Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Starbucks, adult video stores, and Christian missionaries start popping up everywhere, the hard-line Islamic Jihadists are going to freak out!

So, did that confuse you even more? It's a complicated situation, but if a stable and democratic Iraq can emerge with the ability to stand on its own two feet, that's a good thing. Will it succeed? That depends on the Iraqi people themselves. If their feelings of nationalism and patriotism for Iraq outweigh their ethnic and religious differences, then yes. If not, then no.

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