Despite election madness, huge bright spot in Iraq

Scott Sadler Contributor
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Just days after the Iraqi court ordered a recount of the province that includes Baghdad, now comes word that former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi wants to go deeper in the process. “What worries us now, although we are committed to a manual recount and we believe in it very strongly … is why other areas have not been included,” Mr. Allawi said in remarks earlier this week.

Mr. Allawi has “submitted evidence to the court detailing instances of fraud that occurred in the days after” the elections, according to The New York Times. The alleged fraud is said to have occurred in areas around southern Iraq where Mr. Maliki was strong. “If we have a recount only in Baghdad, they will find new reasons to keep us out of the government,” Mr. Allawi told the Times. The question of whether there will be any international observers involved in such a process has also been raised. The recount is expected to start Saturday and last two weeks, nearly two months after the elections.

All of this at a time when the current Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has seen his standing climb as a result of the raid that killed two top al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq last week. The strikes are good news but as the Associated Press notes, Mr. Maliki “is keen to burnish his image as the leader who can secure Iraq, especially at a time when U.S. troops are preparing to go home.” Mr. Maliki has even greater problems if the Sunnis feel left out of the equation and it doesn’t help his image that Iraqi officials are now investigating Sunni prison abuse claims. A change in the election results could “raise the risks of destabilizing Iraq,” the AP noted, which is something oil companies worry over given the recent investments made in the country’s oilfields.

The bottom line: Iraq’s unsettled environment is beginning to touch everything. The electoral “dark clouds” that Time Magazine refers to continues to hover. But, there continues to be a huge bright spot. Al-Qaeda is on the run in Iraq. There’s no question about that and the premature predictions that Iraq is headed toward a repeat of 2005 are just that; premature. The Washington Post, in its Thursday editorial, is correct to point out “what’s not happening in Baghdad or most of the rest of Iraq: the explosion of sectarian violence that many feared would follow the March 7 election.”

There are those who say I’m the most optimistic person on Iraq they know. I’m under no illusions that Iraq is going to become a United States but I do believe the potential is there now for a meaningful society – something most Americans couldn’t have envisioned not too awful long ago.

Scott Sadler is an experienced communicator with an in-depth expertise with crisis communications who has served in senior level positions in the federal government, Capitol Hill, and in a military theater of operation.