December 30, 2004

Iraq: Elections and Violence

Elections in Iraq are set for January 30, 2005. It appears that date is virtually set in stone. As that date approaches, the level of violence has increased. If you follow the media, you could get the impression that the country is awash in violence. That is not the case - the violence is limited primarily to the area defined in the press as the "Sunni triangle," the area between Baghdad, Mosul and western Anbar province. This are includes the trouble spots of Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra' and Ba'qubah.

Some media pundits have posited the theory that the violence is tied to the elections and that successful elections will result in a lower level of violence. I agree that the violence is tied to the elections, however, I do not believe that the magic date of January 30 had any influence on the level of violence. The perpetrators of the violence fall into two categories: Iraqis from the former regime or sympathizers, and a group of fundamentalist Muslims, some Iraqi and some foreign, under the leadership of Al-Qa'idah affiliate Abu Musa'ib Az-Zarqawi.

Neither of these groups want the elections to occur. They have increased the level of violence, primarily in the Sunni triangle, but also including attacks in the Shi'a holy city of An-Najaf. These attacks are aimed at intimidating the Sunnis from voting, and in the case of the attack in An-Najaf, to spark sectarian divisions among the diverse groups that make up Iraq to prevent a new government from being effective.

Regardless of the outcome of the elections in January - and by all accounts it appears that they will take place on schedule - the violence will not decrease. The targets of the violence may shift to those newly elected representatives, but the reasons for the insurgents to attack will remain. They do not want the establishment of a representative government in the country. For the secular Ba'this, it formalizes and institutionalizes their fall from power that began with the American invasion in March 2003. For the Al-Qa'idah sympathizers, it creates a secular state that flies in the face of their dream of a fundamentalist Sunni Islamic state.

The elections will exacerbate the violence, not lessen it. The only thing that will lessen the violence is the eradication of those perpetrating it. Appeals for inclusion of offers of amnesty are a waste of time. The insurgents have to be hunted down and killed.