Passing the electoral buck; Mosul next?
BAGHDAD — Well, well. Things are certainly confusing here regarding the timing of the elections. The Allawi government is divided over the elections, with the defense minister saying the elections could be postponed and even President Ghazi al-Yawer saying the U.N. should look into the matter. Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s office is sending smoke signals that we all squint to interpret. However, Foreign Minister Hoshi Zebari, a Kurd, says elections must go on as scheduled.
[UPDATE 2:35:28 PM +0300 GMT: Well, Allawi said today in a press conference that the elections would go on as planned. I guess that settles it. … Not.]
In all of this, the U.N. has said the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq has the authority to make the decision to change the election date. The IECI says it’s a political decision — it’s the government’s call, in other words. The Iraqi government, as I explained above, is divided and al-Yawer wants to pass the buck onto the U.N. … and the game of electoral hot potato continues.
In all of this, the U.S. stands firm on the Jan. 30 date. And why not? It’s not Americans will bear the brunt of the violence. And the ones who will — the soldiers — are pretty heavily armed. Not so for the luckless Iraqis who get caught in the violence while queuing up to vote.
Also, the Shi’a and the Kurds are standing firm on the date — and again, why not? They’re the ones who stand to gain the most from the elections, especially since their traditional oppressors, the Sunnis, will most likely not take part in large numbers.
So I can’t begin to tell you what’s going to happen. I’ve changed my mind on whether elections will be held on schedule twice now, from thinking the definitely won’t be held, to thinking they will be held come hell or high water to — now — thinking, well, maybe. I really just don’t know, and from the noises coming out of the Iraqi Government, they don’t either.
In other news, Qasim Daoud, the Iraqi national security advisor, just said an operation to clear out Mosul will begin “soon.” Since most of the Mosul embeds for my colleagues have been put off until Jan. 8, we should probably expect a major offensive up there somewhere between Jan. 10-15. I don’t know how long it will last.
I’m supposed to go up there tomorrow, but I may not be able to blog it, depending on the connectivity.