No Delay

Election Day in Iraq is a little over a month away, and the violence against the Iraqi people and interim government increases. Last week, two election workers were gunned down in cold blood. Today, Muhammad Abd al-Hussein, a secular Iraqi politician critical of Syria was murdered, and Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the head of the most influential Shiite party narrowly missed an assassination attempt which killed over a dozen people.

Critics of the upcoming election on January 30 state that more time is needed to establish security in the Sunni regions, give the Sunni political parties time to enter the election and lend “legitimacy” to the election results. The truth of the matter is that no amount of time will create a completely secure environment or grant the election 100% legitimacy. The Ba’athist who lost their power and want it back at all cost, and the Islamists that want to prevent the establishment of democracy in Iraq will never be placated by election delays of six months or six years.

Al Qaeda has invested enormous resources into Iraq and is attempting to create an American defeat akin to the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. Democracy is anathema to the Islamofascists of al Qaeda, as it stands in opposition to every one of their perverted goals of creating a Taliban-styled Caliphate in the Muslim world and eventually world-wide. Fearing the prospects of a successful Iraqi election, as was recently pulled off in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden has released a new tape calling for the boycott of Iraqi elections. Shortly afterward, the Iraqi Islamic Party, the largest Sunni group that petitioned to enter the election, has indicated that it will boycott the election. The IIP claims to want more time to establish security, but the timing of the announcement is somewhat curious.

Delaying elections will only embolden those who seek to thwart them. Syria and Iran would have more time to attempt to influence the election. The interim government would be viewed as weak, and attacks would only escalate in an attempt to cow the people and government. A delay would not be persuasive in convincing others to join the political process or participate as an election worker, as they would be exposing themselves to six more months of intimidation and assassination attempts.

The election will not be illegitimate if Sunni abstain from voting; they will be exercising their democratic right to not participate. The citizens of Afghanistan had a similar choice – whether to vote under the threat of violence – and overwhelmingly exercised their democratic right and voted. The amount of representation in the new Iraqi assembly will be entirely up to the Sunnis. And if the Sunnis choose to boycott the election and continue the insurgency or escalate it, they will be working against the elected government of Iraq, comprised mainly of Shiites and Kurds with little sympathy to the Sunni dominated insurgency made of their historical oppressors. The Shiites and Kurds have exercised great restraint with the Sunnis, and this cannot continue indefinitely.

There is one other reason to go forward with the election, which impacts the greater war outside of Iraq: if Osama bin Laden desires a boycott of the Iraqi election, this is yet another incentive to proceed and deal him yet another defeat. Osama couldn’t prevent a successful election in Afghanistan, he couldn’t influence the elections in America or Australia, and he won’t be able to stop them in Iraq.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • Richard Aubrey says:

    Calling for a boycott is probably useless.
    However, it’s happened before. The FMLN in El Salvador called for a boycott, and probably did get its sympathizers to stay home.
    Ho-hum. Nobody noticed. Few remember. The effect is zero.
    Boycotting an election is like a kid’s threat to hold his breath. It only works if the grownups are impressed.
    There’s little reason to be impressed in either case.

  • PeterArgus says:

    The Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party has pulled this trick out of their hat before. Back when the Fallujah campaign started they “pulled out of the government”. What was interesting in that case was that their sole representative in the current government, Industry and Minerals Minister Hajem al-Hassani, left the party rather than resign, citing the importance of a representative government over the dictates of the party. Furthermore the party kept its 4 representatives in the Iraqi assembly. So the bottom line was that this was a symbolic withdrawal. Now we hear they are withdrawing their slate of candidates but not boycotting the elections.
    Meanwhile the Shiites continue their preparations despite violence clearly perpetrated by Sunnis. Instead of resorting to reprisals Shiite leaders urge restraint.
    The Sunnis are in a real bind here. They are going to be handed a real asswupping on Jan. 30. Sure the demographics are against them but their refusal to deal with their insurgency (as the Shiites did Sadr) has weakened any political movement to get Sunnis to the polls. They are clearly desperate and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Islamic Party reverses its position again. Either way after the election the Shiites will have a “mandate” to deal with Sunnis


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