Iraq Election Tensions Stir White House Mission

Growing Sunni Ire Over Election Bans a Top Priority

Vice President Joe Biden is expected to arrive in Iraq soon, perhaps within the next few days, in an attempt by the US to smooth out rising sectarian tensions between the ruling Shi’ites and the Sunni Arab minority.

Sunnis have been increasingly riled by a ban, stemming from claims by an election oversight body run by Ahmed Chalabi, which has prevented over 500 candidates from running in the March election. The details of the list have not been made public, but it reportedly includes several members from one of the key Sunni political blocs, including a top opposition MP.

The bannings effectively destroy the third largest political alliance in Iraq just months ahead of the election, and are seen by many as an attempt by the Maliki government to cement its hold on power.

Another issue Biden is expected to address is a pledge by the Najaf Provincial government, a Shi’ite dominated region centered around the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf, to purge the region of “Ba’athist ideas,” seen by the province’s Sunni minority as a euphemism for a sectarian purge.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.