It's been usual for foreigners (diplomats, workers, journalists...etc) in Iraq to take lots of security precautions when they move around in Baghdad or some other Iraqi cities; they try to hide anything that might reveal their identities and I even noticed that they began to choose ordinary cars-from the kinds that many Iraqis own instead of fancy new cars- for use in their rides to avoid attracting attention.
This is of course as a result of the kidnappings and various attacks that targeted foreigners in Iraq regardless of the nature of their presence here. This created the feeling that every foreigner walking on the streets is an easy target for direct gunfire or for kidnapping (for money or to be beheaded later). This even included Arabs and Arab firms and even Iraqis working in Arab firms. In short, anyone who is here to do something that might be good for Iraq.
One group of foreigners really caught my attention by ignoring all the dangers and moving in the streets of Baghdad showing their identity so clearly.
One might think that this group of people did so because they are very bold but actually I don't think this is true for this case. Why? Because simply they were French.
Yesterday, I saw a single car with the words "FRENCH EMBASSY" written in Arabic on the windshield moving in Karrada crowded neighborhood in broad daylight. They didn't seem to be in a hurry and were driving slowly unlike other foreigners who try to drive as fast as possible to avoid being tracked and chased.
It seems that the French are not afraid of the terrorists. Were they excluded from the terrorists' targets list for some reason? Is there a peace truce between them? Did we miss something here? Because the French are moving freely and saying for the terrorists:
"Hey, it's us, so don't mistake us for your enemies, the other foreigners! And we are not just ordinary French. We are the French government! And we are certainly not doing something good for Iraq, so relax!"
This may explain why no one is anymore worried about the two French journalists; they're in friendly hands!
On another subject, it's well known in Iraq that political parties that plan to participate in the upcoming elections are not allowed to start campaigning in the media before the 15th of December 2004.
This rule was breached yesterday and on the hands of one of the well known parties that are part of the current administration.
This party "The National Democratic Party" reserved half a page on Al-Sabah newspaper to advertise for its political program. What is worse is that Al-Sabah is published by the "Iraqi Media Network" which is run by the government in one way or another, and it's more than obvious that the government should not advertise for any political party. I expect Al-Sabah to repeat this with the major parties that form the government, but certainly not for other parties.
This is a bad sign because some parties do not seem to understand that they cannot inherit Iraq. Similar maneuvers belong to Saddam's dark age and do not and must not have a place in the new Iraq we're trying to build and parties like the one I mentioned need to wake up to this fact.
Still in the elections, I've been following the latest demands by some parties to delay the elections, and while it was really distressing to see such demands come from legal parties not from terrorists disguised in the clothes of politicians or clerics, I do understand why they made such demand that goes very well with the ultimate goal of the terrorists.
Some of these parties cannot think beyond their partisan interests and it seems they want things to calm down in the so-called Sunni triangle so that more Sunnis participate in the elections. This seems like a reasonable demand, but the problem is that they do not seek that as much as they seek to strengthen their own individual and partisan positions. I know it's just an assumption and I should not accuse them without a solid proof, but I know these people and they're not too stupid to notice that the terrorists dream is to delay the elections as much as possible if they can't prevent it.
They do understand, this yet they still want to risk the whole future of Iraq just to ensure they get more seats in the parliament. It's true that Iraqis are still not very ready for the elections and no one did a great job in educating the majority about the importance, the rules and laws of the democratic process, and from the beginning I thought we need more time to ensure that most Iraqis not only want democracy but have a minimum accepted knowledge about what it means. However, when the decision was made (due to pressure from inside and outside) I accepted it and was and still on the opinion that it should NOT be delayed no matter what.
It's interesting to see that some of the parties that demanded the delay rushed today to announce that they did not sign any document regarding this appeal! They understand that the majority wants elections as soon as possible, and most people are afraid of any delay, but the truth is that they expect it to come from America, not from Iraqi parties. Thus any party that declares such demands would be probably seen as collaborating with the Americans to prolong "occupation".
This does not necessarily mean that the parties that demand elections to be held at the exact set up date are the true patriots, as among these there are many who want this just because they will definitely gain when a large proportion of Sunni cannot or refuse to vote. They want it to happen now while they can ensure an overwhelming majority rather than wait for some time which might not only result in more Sunnis voting, but worse than that is that Iraqis would have a better chance to learn more about democracy and find their own voice. They might start to think that it's not just choosing between what's available, but making what you chose, available.
Some of those who rush elections still think in the way Arab dictators think. They don't understand that it's not all about the 1st elections. Politics stink, doesn't it!?
Update: Here's the statement of the Iraqi National Congress:
Baghdad, (26 November 2004): The INC supports fully holding the general elections, on 31 January 2005, without any delay.
Delay in holding the elections will be a delay in the restoration of full sovereignty to Iraq. It will also be a delay of withdrawal of foreign troops.
The INC upholds that the legitimacy of the Iraqi government is based on the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), which clearly states in Art.2.b.2. that elections must be held no later than 31 January 2004. Moreover, Art. 3 of the TAL reconfirms the January election timetable by stipulating that “likewise, no amendment may be made that could abridge in any way the rights of the Iraqi people…; extend the transitional period beyond the timeframe cited in this Law; delay the holding of elections to a new assembly”. The TAL is also reinforced in United Nations Security Resolution 1546 that also refers to date for the elections which must be respected.
The INC welcomes President Bush’s commitment to holding elections on time, which he reconfirmed in his statements today.
The INC believes that a delay in elections will increase the cycle of violence and instability further and undermine the path towards democracy for Iraq.
Contact: Entifadh Qanbar
telephone +1-914-360-3875 Here's a link to the statement