In less than a week, the people of Iraq will decide their political fate and their country’s future, and we may see a prosperous new era in Iraq. On the other hand, however, these elections may be the last. Therefore, the noise that we hear and the verbal and media battles that we see do indicate decisive elections.
I do not believe that the situation of the past four years under an elected government led by Nuri al-Maliki will be the same even if Al-Maliki himself remains prime minister.
There are some facts that will change beginning the next year, mainly with the departure of the US forces. Disregarding the United States’ military role in facing the opponents of the new regime and protecting it both in and outside the country, the US presence represents a burden that is shared by the competing forces.
Even two years ahead of the date of the military forces’ departure, this US presence has weakened now because of the United States’ declining interest in the Iraqi affair under President Barack Obama. President Obama has not taken the trouble of contacting Prime Minister Al-Maliki since he took office a year ago, unlike former President George Bush who accustomed Al-Maliki to a weekly video session during which they discussed the tiniest details of the Iraqi situation.
We saw how the United States’ gradual move away from Iraq prompted interference by pro-Iran forces, which excluded key candidates from the elections, and the United States’ belated intervention failed to stop this interference.
As much as it is a positive development in favor of the Iraqi state, the United States’ move of stopping to run the Iraqi affairs will create a vacuum, which foreign forces that are lying in wait will attempt to fill. These forces struggled to drive the Americans out, and today they believe that they have the right to run Iraq albeit by proxy.
Quite clearly, Iranian President Ahmadinejad intervened by making statements on who has the right to enter parliament and who must be prevented from running as candidates.
In addition to being a departure from the rules of decorum and conduct, these statements constitute an early announcement by Tehran that it intends to run Iraq to replace the Americans. These statements by Ahmadinejad provoked the neighboring states, which considered them a serious signal.
The elections, which are on the threshold, will usher in a new era and perhaps a new map for the entire regional, as well as international forces. Will the situation change if the Al-Maliki government returns with new alliances? Will another religious party, such as the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council, come to rule? Or will a secular alliance, led by Iyad Allawi, achieve victory?
Surely, the facts that were created after the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime will not be easy to maintain, because there will be no US umbrella and the regional political conflict will expand both in and around Iraq, and the internal Iraqi conflict may be more ferocious.
But what about the Iraqis? Will they be able to hold out? Have they learned from the experience of the past few difficult years to be able to run their affairs in the years to come? We must not downplay the development that happened in the Iraqi society. The people’s huge involvement in the election activity and their participation will not be easy to cancel.
On the other hand, we saw a genuine development in the skills of the parliamentarians and those who work in politics in general. We saw their ability to coexist, engage, and show good parliamentary performance. Perhaps, the experience of the past difficult years will help Iraq overcome the plight of the next four years.
No matter who wins with a majority vote, success of the elections will give hope that it will be the boat that will take the country to the shore and peacefully save it from the next storm.