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Rachel Schneller, a Foreign Service officer with the State Department and Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow for 2009-2010 writes in the CFR that the derailing of the Iraqi election law may not be as bad as it sounds (Avoiding Elections at Any Cost in Iraq | CFR | December 3, 2009). Ms. Schneller was also the William R. Rivkin Awardee for 2008, AFSA’s Constructive Dissent Award for a mid-level officer (FS 3-FS 1).Quick excerpts below:
Elections should not be used as benchmarks of progress in fragile countries like Iraq, when they can just as easily signal periods of increased instability. After the December 2005 parliamentary elections, Iraq remained volatile and the lengthy formation of a new government led to an explosion of unchecked sectarian violence. There is every likelihood that 2010 elections will also result in a slow government formation process, leaving a protracted period of time when no one in the Iraqi government will be making decisions on security or reconstruction, or be able to take on the mammoth tasks of revising Iraq’s constitution and oil laws. These issues are much more important for Iraq’s long-term stability than whether elections are held on time in 2010.
The United States would do well to back away from the policy of elections at any cost. Elections in Iraq do not signify stability. In Iraq, the sequence of events is more important than the chronology of them. That is, the order of constitutional reform, oil law reform, and election law reform is more important than ensuring they occur according to schedule. In this light, the current delays on Iraq’s election law are a good sign, because it appears Iraq’s Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds are seriously trying to work out a power-sharing arrangement acceptable to all.
The sectarian violence that consumed Iraq in 2006 and 2007 was not a result of insufficient numbers of U.S. troops, but the result of underlying sectarian tensions and the lack of a capable Iraqi government following the December 2005 elections. This does not mean the United States should not reduce its military presence in Iraq; it should do so when and how its interests are best suited. But if the United States pushes for elections simply to check a box and satisfy U.S. criteria for a military drawdown, the election result will not be worth the paper it takes to print the ballots.
Read the whole thing here.
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