Iraq’s parliamentary elections were supposed to be the Obama Administration’s ticket to some form of significant drawdown of forces in the nation. Instead, the election is underscoring the political disarray that remains in the nation, nearly seven years after the American invasion.
Originally scheduled for January, the election was subject to multiple delays as parliament could not settle on a law governing the vote until well after the deadline. The election was finally scheduled for March 7, months after the Iraqi Constitution required it to be held.
With that finally settled, a battle emerged over who would be allowed to run in the election, with the Justice and Accountability Committee successfully lobbying to ban nearly 500 candidates on allegations that they were tied with, or at least sympathetic to, the Ba’ath Party. Two seated Sunni MPs were among those banned, and sectarian tensions are on the rise.
But assuming they manage to stave off a threatened Sunni boycott and hold a more or less credible election, UN officials say that growing factionalism mean that seating a government “might really take some time.” With the clock ticking on President Obama’s pledge for a significant drawdown by August, it is a delay he can scarcely afford.
Pentagon officials have said the US won’t begin to significantly reduce the number of troops in Iraq until at least 60 days after the election is settled. If seating the government is slow, it could push the start of the drawdown into the summer, and make the August deadline unattainable.