Iraqi President (sorta) reverses himself on election timing.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar, who, just a couple of weeks ago said the date of the elections were firm, now seems to think maybe the date is not set in stone:

Iraq’s president urged the United Nations Tuesday to look into whether the country should go ahead with its scheduled Jan. 30 election despite violence threatening to scare voters away from the polls.

“Definitely the United Nations, as an independent umbrella of legitimacy … should really take the responsibility by seeing whether that (timing) is possible or not,” Ghazi al-Yawar told Reuters in an interview.

Iraq’s interim government and its American allies have repeatedly said that the vote would not be delayed. But Yawar said the polls would fail if a raging insurgency kept a significant number of Sunnis away from voting stations.

“Definitely the United Nations, the party who is independent, who cannot be threatened or intimidated and who is credible in the international community, should really stand up for their responsibilities and obligations by saying whether that is possible or not,” he said.

“On a logical basis, there are signs that it will be a tough call to hold the election.”

There’s no doubt it will be a tough call. But as I argued previously, based on my reporting, there’s really no legal way to change the date. But perhaps it’s not as iron-clad as I was led to believe:

Iraq’s temporary constitution, endorsed by the United Nations, calls for elections to be held by end-January. The U.N. has said only Iraq’s Independent Electoral Commission can change the poll schedule. The Commission says changing the date is a political decision that would require wide consultation.

So maybe I’ll win that $5 bet I made with a colleague that they’ll delay the elections after all. I mean, I’ll admit that while there doesn’t appear to be any legal way to postpone the election, people may eventually bow to reality and just not hold them. I’m sure the Iraqi Bar Association would eventually recover. And the U.N. is used to being snubbed by now, I guess.

Oh, hell. I’m just giving into despair. From my perspective on the ground, it seems like a really foolhardy idea to hold an election when high-level officials are being assassinated, multiple car bombs are going of every day and U.S. troops — to say nothing of Iraqi civilians — are dying all the time. But hey, guys in the south say things are cool! And Sadr City has garbage pickup now.

Admittedly, the south is a lot better off than the center and west of the country and garbage pickup is progress, but such forced silver-lining spotting seems bit like bailing sea water with a thimble while you’re on the Titanic.

On another note, embed starts tomorrow, not today. And there’s a rumor that Abu Masoub al-Zarqawi has been nabbed. It’s from ITAR-TASS, however, so take it with a big grain of salt. Right now, American military spokespeople I contacted are neither confirming nor denying it — which probably means someone big was captured around Baqoubah, but they’re working to confirm the identity. Might be al-Zarqawi, might be someone high up in his organization. It’s too soon to tell and I’ve not heard back from my sources on the ground there.

(I know this talk of “sources” is frustrating. It is for me, too. But I don’t want to betray someone’s safety, and I can’t go out to these places myself. So I have to report by remote control many times. It’s far, far from the ideal, but Iraq has become the land of what’s necessary and what’s possible.)

[UPDATE 7:12:17 PM +0300 GMT: I’m hearing from the Embassy that they think they may have someone who looks like him, but it’s not al-Zarqawi.]

[UPDATE 8:03:37 PM +0300 GMT: The spokesman for Task Force 1-6, operating around Baqoubah, says, “We dont have him, and not sure where these rumors start.”]

2 Comments on “Iraqi President (sorta) reverses himself on election timing.”

  1. Wednesday Snippets

    As if the Tsunami waves themselves weren’t devastating enough, it seems that some people’s fears regarding the ability of aid agencies to cut through the crap and get help where it’s needed, are coming true.