Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 03, 2009

Provincial Elections In Iraq

An election under occupation is always a very dubious endeavor. In most cases the outcome is shaped by those in power and under the protection of the occupier. The provincial elections in Iraq again show this.

Preliminary results get leaked and shape the expectation and analysis in the west. I doubt that these results reflect the reality. But after successfully shaping the expectations through leaks and propaganda, the outcome is easier to arranged to fit those. Allegations of fraud will be dismissed because the results are already known to the public due to the expectation shaping.

The Washington Post writes:

The Supreme Council's dominance may give way to Dawa, which was winning the largest number of votes in all but one of southern Iraq's nine provinces, according to party activists, election officials and observers.

Hmmm - according to 'party activists, election officials and observers'. Not one of these persons is named. Could these folks have special interests in leaking specific trends? You bet.

Yesterday the NYT headlined: Secular Parties and Premier Lead in Iraq

Mr. Maliki’s Dawa Party drew strong support in Basra and Baghdad, two of Iraq’s largest and most politically important provinces, according to political parties and election officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss preliminary tallies.

The relative success of the secular parties may be a sign that a significant number of Iraqis are disillusioned with the religious parties that have been in power but have done little to deliver needed services.

Again - anonymous sources. How many of those were from the U.S. government or military?

And why is stated that secular parties were successful when Dawa is said to get so many votes?

Patrick Cockburn of The Independent also falls into the secular trap:

The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who seemed weak and isolated a year ago, appears to have won a sweeping victory in the Iraqi provincial elections that will strengthen his hold on central government. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to preliminary results, Iraqi voters chose secular and nationalist parties over their religious rivals.

Uhh - what nonsense. The full name of Maliki's Dawa party is Ḥizb al Daʿwa al-Islāmiyya:

The political ideology of al-Da'wa is heavily influenced by work done by Baqr al-Sadr who laid out four mandatory principles of governance in his 1975 work, Islamic Political System. These were:

  1. Absolute sovereignty belongs to God.
  2. Islamic injunctions are the basis of legislation. The legislative authority may enact any law not repugnant to Islam.
  3. The people, as vice-regents of Allah, are entrusted with legislative and executive powers.
  4. The jurist holding religious authority represents Islam. By confirming legislative and executive actions, he gives them legality."

Dawa, the Islamic Call Party long headquarter in and supported by Tehran, is now said to have won 50% of the votes in Basra and other provinces. We are now told to believe that this is a secular and nationalist victory?

Oh my ...

Posted by b on February 3, 2009 at 7:59 UTC | Permalink


Iran , wisely invested in strong relation with all Shia fractions in Iraq. Iran is winner regardless of who win particularly Maleki & Dawa Party.

Results are good news for Iran specially with news of sucessfull SAt lunch.

Posted by: | Feb 3 2009 8:59 utc | 1

I doubt if Patrick Cockburn is falling into a trap, b. He's better than that.

Anyway, the theme is wrong. It is indeed nationalism that is putting Iraq back together again. Maliki found it very useful last year for putting together resistance against the SOFA. The US has spent the last 6 years on divide-and-rule, provoking religious sectarianism. The US negotiators didn't see Maliki's line until the last moment (if they did at all), and so signed an agreement which is not bad for Iraq, but certainly is for US imperial interests.

The fact that Da'wa is in principle an Islamist party is neither here or there. Maliki found that nationalism works, so he's continuing that line.

The fact is that Iraqis do prefer a centralising, national, government. Iraq is Iraq, and has been since the time of Babylon. It was US ideologues who invented the idea that it was a fictitious country made up of disparate feuding sectarian communities, evidently in order to divide-and-rule, hand-in-hand with the Kurds, who needed to present the same picture for their own interests.

The point to look out for is in the north, where tips are that al-Hadba will sweep Nineveh province, around Mosul. al-Hadba is Sunni Arab, but some Kurds are said to be voting for it. Calling al-Hadba Sunni Arab is an over-simplification; I mean everybody up there except the Kurds. If that result does happen, it will be a major setback for the Kurds, and particularly for their maps showing half of Iraq - and indeed half of the Middle East - in the new Kurdish state.

Kirkuk is not going too well for the Kurds either. They weren't able to get an election through there; so all the new Kurds moved in by the KRG to overwhelm the other communities haven't been able to vote. I am certain Maliki doesn't want Kirkuk to go to the Kurds, and so is manoeuvring against them.

At the moment, this election is looking good for Iraq, better than I'd expected. The justifications for the US to break the SOFA/Withdrawal agreement are being reduced. Iraq is returning to its traditional centralist government.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 3 2009 9:10 utc | 2

the key is the participation. nothing was at stake in this election, everything is a done deal.

Posted by: outsider | Feb 3 2009 9:18 utc | 3

The interesting part of all this is the way that under Maliki's rule, Iraq has turned divide and rule round onto the invader.
According to Gareth Porter at IPS, Petreaus and Obama have had a falling out over the troop withdrawal:

WASHINGTON, Feb 2 (IPS) - CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus, supported by Defence Secretary Robert Gates, tried to convince President Barack Obama that he had to back down from his campaign pledge to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq within 16 months at an Oval Office meeting Jan. 21.

But Obama informed Gates, Petraeus and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen that he wasn't convinced and that he wanted Gates and the military leaders to come back quickly with a detailed 16-month plan, according to two sources who have talked with participants in the meeting. . . .
. . .Petraeus was visibly unhappy when he left the Oval Office, according to one of the sources. A White House staffer present at the meeting was quoted by the source as saying, "Petraeus made the mistake of thinking he was still dealing with George Bush instead of with Barack Obama."

Petraeus, Gates and Odierno had hoped to sell Obama on a plan that they formulated in the final months of the Bush administration that aimed at getting around a key provision of the U.S.-Iraqi withdrawal agreement signed envisioned re-categorising large numbers of combat troops as support troops. That subterfuge was by the United States last November while ostensibly allowing Obama to deliver on his campaign promise.

I haven't seen much comment on this elsewhere which may in the oddly perverse way that the mass media works be an indication of the story's veracity.

The danger with taking this stuff seriously is if Obama and the dems are actually just cutting a path to the back gate, to give themselves an exit strategy, not from Iraq, from the campaign promises. That is, by pushing this story out yet getting no response from amerikans obsessed with domestic issues, Obama & Co get an excuse not to proceed with the withdrawal. That yarn would go "Well we were all set to pull everyone out, but the rethugs went to protect their military industrial complex and right when we needed those whining lefties to stand up and be counted, they didn't mobilise jack shit." By claiming nobody wanted withdrawal enough to fight for it. Obama can blame those who are likely to cause him the most grief, cause if all else is true Obama and the rethugs have been getting on like a house on fire apart from this.

However if that was the strategy it would follow that this tale of Petraeus and Keane's mutinous behaviour would need a wider circulation than one leftie fishwrap such as IPS.

But if the story is credible and not just a piece of yarn spinning by the empire's hired hands, it indicates the SOFA is causing the sort of splits and schisms amongst the empire's strategists, that the amerikan empire usually tries to engender amongst the leadership of those whom they seek to oppress.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Feb 3 2009 10:44 utc | 4

It's all bullshit!
Full stop.

Posted by: vbo | Feb 3 2009 11:09 utc | 5

All pretty pathetic really, that the Gates, Petraeus, and Odierno, leftovers - after six years of pointless massive bloodshed and political upheaval at home as a result, should now be crying no! wait! After all, it only took six years to accomplish what they thought would be a shoe in right after the invasion - the installation of a secular Shiite Saddam. Maliki, unlike Chalabi has been masterful at giving the Americans what they publicly ask for (peace, democracy, & stability), as a means to undermine what they really want (military bases & oil rights). This has effectively rendered the U.S. propaganda mission "mission accomplished" while the real mission lies rotting, moot, and irrelevant - the mega-embassy a waste of space. Nothing short of a brilliant. At least until the U.S. really does leave, and all Maliki's chickens in this fight come home to roost - like all four and a half million of them.

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 3 2009 21:30 utc | 6

Despite lots of pressure from Petraeus to do otherwise, Obama remains steadfast in wanting us to get the hell out of Iraq. And if Patraeus still can't manage to get a grip on his wet dreams about occupying Iraq, then he should seriously consider giving up his US citizenship to become a full-fledged citizen of Iraq!

Posted by: Cynthia | Feb 3 2009 23:47 utc | 7

Gareth Porter's report rings true to me; the cleavages pointed up correspond to the reality of the situation (at least, as I see it).

The trick here is to recall, as I have been bashing on about since July, that, as the Iraqis have now had it with the Americans and want them out (widespread popular opinion, and particularly in Najaf), the choices open to the US are 1) to maintain a forced military occupation (130,000 or so), or 2) to do what the Iraqis want, and get out. Leaving at max a figleaf.

In this report, you can see the generals getting anxious about the safety of US troops, and going against troop reductions. It's a constant tendency. We already had it last November, where again it was felt that the time was not "quite right" to pull troops out. The time will never be "quite right". The full occupation will have to be maintained. It's a policy without future, as the troops and treasure are needed elsewhere.

On the other hand, Obama's attitude is typical of him, politically with a vision at least of the future, but actually unrealistic in the detail. As with Afghanistan. Here, he continues to keep a vision of a Korea or a Germany, with a low US garrison and all those bases. That is never going to happen. The Iraqis don't need US money, or protection. And the US has been so detestable these last years (with Gaza added, now), that calm acceptance of a US garrison is impossible. There'll be constant low-level attacks on the US garrison, and the generals will be always against a troop reduction.

I see from Juan Cole that Maliki has given an interview suggesting that things were going so well that the US could leave even sooner than the end of 2011. Perhaps a little naive, but that's the way things are going. We should not forget that Najaf, and particularly Sistani, is behind all this. If they are dissatisfied, they are in a position to call out a Shi'ite revolt at any moment, and in that case the US troops will be fighting for their lives.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 4 2009 9:45 utc | 8

Good analysis Alex, particularly the last paragraph - indicating a secret deal with Sadr's people waiting in the wings, a suspicion I've had for a while. Rope a dope, gently one would assume.

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 4 2009 10:26 utc | 9

Today Cole agrees with my take:

It is being alleged by US pundits that the outcome of the provincial elections in Iraq, as far as it is known, indicates a defeat for the religious parties and for Iran.

This allegation is not true. In the Shiite provinces, the coalition of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and the Islamic Mission Party (Da'wa) will continue to rule. Both parties are close to Tehran, and leaders of both spent time in exile in Iran. Da'wa appears to have become more popular than ISCI. But Da'wa was founded in the late 1950s to work for an Islamic republic in Iraq, and current leader Nuri al-Maliki has excellent relations with the Iranian leadership.

Posted by: b | Feb 5 2009 8:19 utc | 10

Today Cole agrees with my take:

True he does, but a party (Da'wa) can start out Islamist but take a nationalist line later.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 5 2009 9:16 utc | 11

Just days after the elections, it's being confirmed (with amazing rapidity,see Cole) what I alluded to in #9 (&other posts)that:

Sawt al-Iraq says that the provincial coalition between Da`wa and the Sadrists is virtually a done deal. The Sadrists asked the PM to have detainees from the party released, and he pledged to look into letting those not accused of serious crimes out. Al-Maliki in his turn urged the Sadrists to strengthen their moderates and to expel from the party those who resorted to violence.

Such a coalition would take Da`wa to 47% of seats in Baghdad province,

This has been a counterintuitive suspicion I've had for a long time - that the Maliki government and the Sadrists have created an under the table alliance, that has now surfaced into public post election. I think that the alliance was formed in the lead up to the SOFA negotiations, whereby the Sadr trend would back Maliki if he would pursue a hard tact in negotiating the withdrawal of U.S. troops ASAP. And that should the U.S. use the precipitous withdrawal threat(which they did) the Mahdi army would back Maliki should civil war re-emerge. The Sadrists also agreed to allow Maliki to carry out a number of notable actions against his own movement that would both cull his more radical (out of his control) elements and make it appear to the occupation that the anti-occuopationist Sadrists were being split out of the action and politically marginalized, in what could convincingly be seen as a new kind of Maliki style "secular" nationalism. Which as this new alliance, gelling as it did only minutes after the election, proves that the new secularism is the same old sectarianism - and that the U.S. occupation has once again been chumped, big time.

Posted by: anna missed | Feb 8 2009 21:41 utc | 12

And it's not only the Sadrists, AM @12. Al-Maliki Negotiates with Sunni Guerrillas in Wake of Provincial Elections (Cole).

This looks like quite a big move.

Posted by: Alex | Feb 8 2009 23:31 utc | 13

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