BAGHDAD -- A popular Sunni party announced Saturday that it will boycott Iraq's parliamentary elections next month, but it stopped short of urging supporters not to vote.Blogging at Foreign Policy magazine, Tom Ricks says that it's very unclear what's really happening in Iraq:
The decision by the National Dialogue Front to pull out of the March 7 elections could cement views here that Shiite religious parties have rigged the vote against secular and Sunni candidates.
Saleh al-Mutlak, who leads the party, was among about 500 candidates disqualified from the elections because of their alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. A panel of judges signed off on most of the disqualifications. But before the appeals process, all but 171 were replaced by their parties or withdrew. Only 25 prevailed upon appeal.
"It's a bad environment for the election," said Haider al-Mullah, a spokesman for the National Dialogue Front, which has 11 seats in parliament. "They are preventing good leaders like Doctor al-Mutlak from running."
The disqualifications have caused widespread fear that the elections will be deemed illegitimate.
On Saturday, the leading Sunni party said it had decided to withdraw from Iraq's March 7th national elections. And former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi went to Saudi Arabia to confer with its king and its intelligence chief. And the Iraqi vice president met with the Egyptian ambassador. And Iranian troops acted pushy along the Iraqi border at volatile Diyala province, which I am told is the Maliki faction's preferred overland route to Iran. What up with all that?Ricks also links to the blog Iraq and Gulf Analysis which seems to be well worth reading for those trying to form an opinion on political developments in Iraq.
I am getting very puzzled. Some friends of mine say not to worry, the Sunnis understand they have lost and are going to suffer for a generation. Other friends of mine, equally knowledgeable in Iraqi affairs, predict civil war or a military coup by September. (And a third friend says that a military coup would be a good outcome.) They can't all be right.
The experts' predictions are all over the map in a way I haven't seen since about late 2005. This is not a good sign.
Again - a great deal is at stake in the development of the global economy. If the Al-Shahristani oil development plan more-or-less succeeds, it will likely postpone peak oil by something on the order of a decade, while perhaps making the consequences ultimately worse if little is done in the meantime.