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Turbans In The Ring

US forces are fighting their way back into Fallujah, the “Arab Alamo”. Last April, US Marines came within days of capturing the insurgent-held city, only to be called off by President Bush because his poll numbers were dropping.

The Marine commander, Lt. General James Conway, raged, "When you order elements of a Marine division to attack a city, you really need to understand what the consequences of that are going to be and not perhaps vacillate in the middle of something like that," he said. "Once you commit, you got to stay committed."

Hopefully, with the election over, Bush will let the Marines do their jobs this time without second guessing them based on politics.

But while the US election is over, candidates for Iraq’s elections in January are jockeying for position. Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is building a coalition that looks likely to dominate the post-election government,

For months, Ayatollah Sistani has been demanding that all the Shiite parties form a single coalition dominated by religious parties. The biggest stumbling block to a single slate is that election law dictates that the groups determine before the vote how to share power afterward.

Sounds like that scene from Lawrence of Arabia, after the Arabs capture Jerusalem from the Turks.

The wildcard in the election is Ahmad Chalabi, President Bush’s personal pick to lead post-war Iraq. Chalabi was convicted of bank fraud in Jordan, lied to the administration about Saddam’s WMD, and recently became a spy for Iran. He’s now teamed up with the insurgent cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, in an attempt to regain power in the government. The Bush family never was any good at choosing friends, were they.

After falling out with the Americans last spring, Mr. Chalabi has recast himself as a pious Shiite and is pursuing a coalition with Mr. Sadr, who has a zealous following. An anti-American platform would have widespread support.

And then there’s the current interim Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, a Baathist exile who spent the last thirty years building a successful life for himself outside Iraq. After authorizing the Fallujah operation, this guy doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in the Badiyat Ash Sham in a free and fair election. On the other hand, he’s in control of the government, he’s just declared martial law, and he’s the guy who actually decides whether the elections will be held or not. It'll be interesting to see how he plays his hand.

With the Kurds organizing in the north, and the Sunni’s threatening to pull out of the process in response to the Fallujah operation, Bush administration advisors are worried the parties will align exclusively along ethnic and religious lines (Gee, ya think?),

If politicians emphasize ethnic and religious differences during campaigning, or insist their groups are entitled to certain seats, tension could grow. At the least, the new assembly might be too weak to confront the country's vast problems. At the worst, a Yugoslav-style dissolution into chaos could ensue.

A Western diplomat said American officials had noticed the divisions and had advised parties to form more diverse coalitions. Otherwise, the political splits "could create acrimony," he said. "We don't need more acrimony."

Indeed. In retrospect, the actual invasion was the least interesting part of President Bush’s little adventure in nation building.

Posted by American Pundit at November 9, 2004 9:07 AM