Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A civil war!?

With the elections' day getting closer, I'm hearing more voices warning of the possibility of a civil war in Iraq after the elections and I want to say that I do not find that theory the least acceptable; the theory of the civil war doesn't match any of the facts on the ground and it's based on visions of people who have never lived among Iraqis and have no real-if any-experience in the region.
The coming days will be a test for these theories but I'm almost positive that nothing like that is going to happen and so I don't need to wait to find out.

Most of such theories are based on the assumption that the Sunni will not approve the outcome of the elections if the She'at got the majority of votes and that this disapproval would take the form of a widespread insurgency in all the areas inhabited by a Sunni majority and then the She'at would be forced to fight to defend their existence and the whole country gets into an endless circle of violence.

The above theory looks strong and points out a possibility that can not be ignored (in the eyes of the theorists). I don't call this over-pessimism but I attribute it to a lack of clear vision and to looking at the case from one angle. I will take a stop here to review the elements of the theory:

The theory is built on two key elements; the first of which is that the Sunni boycott the elections and the second is that the She'at make a flawless win.
Looking at the first element I see that this boycott has been over estimated; there are parties that have a majority of Sunni members and have already enlisted themselves for the elections and all the parties in general have Sunni members and in addition to that, there are Sunni individuals who have announced themselves as candidates.
All those people didn't come from nowhere and they all have their support in the Sunni areas or why do you think they would run for elections if they know that the Sunni will boycott the elections?

Another point to mention is that there is a difference between the Sunni and the She'at regarding the authority of the clergy, and the Sunni don't have a common leadership or clergy that called for the boycott.
If someone shows up saying that he represents all the Sunni and he calls them to boycott the elections they will not follow his orders because such a common leadership that all the Sunni follow does not exist.

However, this assumption was inspired from the fact that most of the military operations take place in areas of Sunni majority. This is true because the terrorists were able to find who supports them in these areas but it's also true that not all the Sunni support the terrorists and we can always hear voices coming from Sunni areas calling for elections in spite of the threats the terrorists keep sending.
As a matter of fact, people in the areas of Sunni majority might find themselves not willing to go to the voting centers out of fear not because they decided to boycott the elections.

And this means that the theory of a widespread insurgency is not realistic because there will be a percentage that is going to vote and there will be another percentage that would like to vote but can not do that because of fear; all those will certainly not contribute to this alleged insurgency.
Anyway, the percentage of voters' participation is expected to be lower in Sunni areas than in other areas in the south or the north.

During the past 18 months, the She'a and the Kurds had the majority (about 80 %)of seats in the interim government with most of the decision making positions in their hands but that didn't lead to a civil war and I want to remind you here that the voices that are expecting the boycott and the civil war to happen are the same voices that expected the eruption of an uprising when the government decided to attack the terrorists in Najaf and Fallujah but we saw in both cases that only the terrorists who started the war remained fighting in the cities while the people, the citizens of the cities whether Sunni or She'at didn't show any support to the terrorists and left them to fight alone. So why would we now expect the Sunni to join the terrorists in a widespread insurgency?

The second factor or element required by this civil war theory is a big win for the She'at in the elections. And we need to stop at this point and discuss it for a while; everyone considers this win inevitable. Yes, it's true that the list of the "United Coalition" which includes the biggest She'at parties is getting a lot of support but this list can not get a vast majority as the "Iraqi List" is getting a lot of support too, as well as the "Iraqi Communist Party" which will obviously get a good percentage of the votes based on what we saw in the latest polls.
We should also not forget that the alliance of the Kurdish parties will get a considerable percentage of the votes.
So it's not expected for the "United Coalition's list" to get more than 40 % of the seats of the national assembly.

But suppose they win with a vast majority of the votes, what's going to happen then?
Will they engage in a civil war with the militants?
The She'at leaderships received too many blows but the refused to engage in an armed conflict with the terrorists. Then why do we expect them to push their people and the country in general into a war when they're in office and legitimately representing the people.
This contradicts with logic because when the She'at get to power through elections they cannot afford to lose that legitimacy by calling their sect's people to carry arms.
Instead, they will have the right to deal with the militants as outlaws according to the law.
The She'at have sacrificed a lot to get to this point and it doesn't make sense if they breach the law that will be written with their approval and support and lets not forget that they She'at are not going to be alone in this; there will be Kurds, Turkmen, Communists and Sunni standing on their side in the government too.

But the main element that prevents a civil war in Iraq remains the presence of the super power that supports the elected government.
With the presence of this super power, no one would dare to fight in open field and the insurgency would be limited to small operations carried out by individuals or small groups that can not show themselves on the streets more than few hours.

There are rumors propagating here in Baghdad and other cities about thousands of militants going down to the streets and taking over control on the day of elections; such rumors are made up by the systems of the ex-regime and they know very well that appearing in public and in thousands means their end.
The anti-change groups have lost the ability to fight in large numbers and in large areas.
I expect the terrorists to keep their operations after the elections in the same limited manner we have right now, maybe the frequency will increase but they will not be able to spread their operations nationwide. And they will have to make a decision; either they give up and accept the new situation after the elections, and this will not happen as long as the neighboring countries keep supporting them.

Or they decide to fight to the end and this way they will eventually lose because the other camp (the government and the MNF) have greater resources that allows them to win the battle over the terrorists.
Another factor remains here, which is time and I don't see it moving in a direction that favors the outlaws side.

The groups that oppose the elections say that elections cannot take place with the country being under occupation.
One thing I'm sure of is that a civil war will be inevitable if the US withdrew from Iraq. Close your eyes for a moment and try to picture the situation if the US decided to leave now.
Those who still live in the illusions of the past will not have a role in the future of the region.

Finally, I want to say that I think what happened in Palestine yesterday and what happened in Afghanistan before that proves that if the people really want to have elections, then they can do it and it's another indication that we're moving on the right track here and it's another accomplishment for the ongoing change in the region.


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