Iraq’s parliament once again failed to reach any agreement on election laws today, leaving the legal basis for the January 16 election day very much in doubt, and after weeks of negotiations and growing US pressure, a delay is seeming more and more likely.
Despite President Obama’s claims to the contrary, such a delay would almost certainly have a disastrous affect on the already nebulous timetable for America’s pullout from Iraq.
President Obama has removed very few troops from Iraq since taking office and military officials have repeatedly suggested that the working plan was to conduct a new assessment a few months after the election and decide on a strategy to start reducing troops at a faster rate after that.
It is a fair question in the first place to wonder if the elections will really be a stabilizing event in Iraq, particularly after crooked elections in Afghanistan and neighboring Iran over the last several months have had the opposite effect. But if the elections are delayed over the question of allowing the public to vote on actual candidates instead of vague “lists,” the problem is compounded.
Perhaps lost in all of this is the referendum on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was required by law to be held in July of 2009 but somehow never materialized. It was suggested it might be held as part of the January vote but doesn’t seem to be getting serious discussion. The referendum would allow the Iraqi public to order the SOFA cancelled 12 months after the vote is certified, but a delay in the election would likely push the cancellation date past the December 2011 end of the pact, effectively making the vote meaningless.