Tuesday, March 30, 2010
The final IHEC results for the 2010 Iraqi Parliamentary Elections are in and Ayad Allawi has pulled off a surprising win. His Iraqiya List has according to reports earned a total of 91 seats. But now comes the difficult task for the former Iraqi Prime Minister. He has to prove that he is able to organize a government ruling-coalition.
This will be made difficult by the efforts of the current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki’s State of Law List finished a close second with 89 seats. This is certainly a victory for Iraqi Nationalism, as both candidates campaigned and ran as tough-on terrorism Nationalists who are able to rise above sectarian ties. The two Prime Ministers do not like each other and the close second of the Shi’a Maliki will enable him to provide stiff competition when it comes to forming a ruling coalition.
The surprise winner of the election was the unexpectedly strong showing (albeit a distant third) by the Iraqi National Alliance with 70 seats. They performed strongly throughout the Shi’a south, including wins in three provinces, but were trounced in Baghdad and elsewhere. This list combined the Iranian-backed Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq (ISCI) and BADR with the religious Shi’a clerical nationalism of Muqtada al-Sadr. They ultimately become the king-maker and will likely demand a sultan’s ransom for their support.
The logical coalition would be between Maliki and Allawi, but their personal animosity precludes this possibility. The Kurds would bring with them 43 members, but this pales to the 70 within the INA. Ultimately the Iraqi Nationalism of Maliki and Allawi unnerve the Kurds and their desire for an autonomous Kurdistan. There are 32 miscellaneous members, but as Bill Roggio notes at the Long War Journal, their disparate views make it impossible to form them as a group.
This leaves the Iraqi National Alliance in a powerful position, but even their alliance can be splintered. The Sadrists hate Maliki for his operations against the Mahdi Militia in Basra. ISCI is angry at Maliki’s for his movement away from the Shi’a bloc, but is also leery of the secularism of Allawi. Allawi’s Iraqi nationalism might appeal to the Sadrists, but no-one wants a government that ultimately rests on the irrational impulses of Muqtada al-Sadr. Allawi has reached out to Syria and Iran and might be seen as an appealing alternative to Maliki, but his largely Sunni coalition will inspire distrust in Iran and among Shi’a partisans.
The INA has seemed to indicate that any coalition with the State of Law List would come with the precondition that Maliki would NOT be the Prime Minister. While Maliki is an Iraqi Nationalist, he is first and foremost, a Maliki partisan and would be loathe to accept such a precondition.
Conventional wisdom seems to be that Maliki will find a way to form another grand Shi’a alliance with the INA to reach the required majorities in the Parliament. I find that outcome plausible, but I think an Iraqiya-INA coalition is just as likely if not more so. Wishful thinking would be for Allawi and Maliki to rise above personal animosity for the good of Iraq, but Iraq’s democracy has yet to reach that point where that is a probable outcome. There will still be a lot of drama as the situation in Iraq develops. Stay tuned.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
With all apologies to Representative Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the Pro-Life Democrat is dead. Certainly there will still be some pro-lifers who try to remain in the Democrat Party, but ultimately the party has no place for their politics and many of them will surrender for a seat at the table (both Al Gore and Dan Kucinich used to be Pro Life for example).
William McGurn has written a powerful editorial in the Wall Street Journal that is both scathing in its condemnation of so-called Pro-Life Democrats like Rep. Bart Stupak, but also incredibly sad in the fact that the Democrat Party no longer has a discernible place for pro-lifers. This means that rather than being a bipartisan issue, pro-life concerns ultimately become completely partisan.
When Bart Stupak announced Sunday he was now a "yes" on the health-care bill, six Democrats stood with him. Even that handful would have been enough to defeat the bill. Instead, they accepted the fig leaf of an executive order—and threw away all the hard-won gains they had made.
Amid the recriminations it's easy to overlook what Mr. Stupak had cobbled together. His amendment restricting federal funding for abortions, passed in November, marked the only bipartisan vote in this whole health-care mess. For the first time since Roe v. Wade, pro-life Democrats had seized the legislative initiative in the teeth of their leadership's opposition—and brought the party of abortion to heel.
Now Mr. Stupak has thrown it away. By caving at the last hour, he discredited all who stood with him. (What does it say about Ohio's Marcy Kaptur and Pennsylvania's Chris Carney that they had already agreed to vote yes even before the fig leaf of the executive order had come through?) In addition to undermining an encouraging partnership with pro-lifers across the congressional aisle, Mr. Stupak signaled that, in the end, you can't count on pro-life Democrats. (For the Rest please read at the Wall Street Journal).
The truth is, Representative Stupak and the other Pro-Life Democrats threw away their ability to make the Health Care Reform Pro-Life. The promise of an Executive Order has an expiration date and doesn't carry the power of a legislative act. Bart Stupak and the Stupak Dozen had an incredible amount of power because their votes were required for passage in the House. Yet, one by one (with the exception of Rep. Dan Lipinski) they bought into the "segregated funding" of the Senate Bill.
It also turns out that Rep. Bart Stupak has recently obtained $750K for airports in his district. One cannot help but wonder if that was his price. One also cannot help but compare Rep. Stupak to Sir Richard Rich.
It is sad to see even the Pro-Life Democrats cave at a time when they had real power to positively impact an otherwise horrible bill by making it uncompromisingly pro-life.
Representative Stupak meet Sir Richard Rich, Sir Richard Rich meet Bart Stupak.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Iraqi Elections were on March 7th. Today it is March 16th and the results are still too close to call. I am sure the Iraqis have more regularly updated results, but IHEC (Independent High Electoral Commission) indicated that the 85% returns would be forthcoming by March 18th.
In Iraq many people are accusing the government of corruption and electoral fraud in the elections. However, I think the still tight vote count indicate that Iraq will not see a repeat of the massive voter fraud of its Iranian neighbor. Both the Wall Street Journal and Bill Roggio at the Long War Journal have been doing yeoman's work in ensuring that junkies like myself can follow the election.
Prime Minister Maliki' State of Law List is the early vote leader, however, his list is confined to Baghdad and the Shi'a South. Initial results (60%) indicate that Maliki will win a majority in Baghdad and all but three of the Shi'a provinces in the South.
Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi appears to be the strong candidate across all of Iraq. This is like Wisconsin State elections where the Republican candidate can win across most of the state, but ultimately lose due to the Democratic strength in Dane County (also known as the People's Republic of Dane County). Allawi has won in the Sunni north by overwhelming margins and has even reached double digits in four of the Shi'a provinces to the South (by comparison Maliki is in single digits in every Sunni province except Diyala).
The Iraqi National Alliance (the Iranian list) is a distant third overall and they have reached 50% in only one province. This underlines the overall decline of religious parties (the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party has been destroyed by Allawi in the Sunni provinces of Ninewa, Salahadin, Diyala, and Anbar), but also a stigma attached to things seen as too Persian (Iranian). One report also indicated that the strongest party in the INA was actually Sadr's bloc, which while perhaps friendly to Iran, is uncompromisingly nationalist.
The unpredictable and close events will likely result in quite a bit of jockeying extending over a few months. Maliki will have to reach out to the INA and the Kurds for an alliance, though he has angered the Kurds as of late and the Sadrists would be loathe to join a Maliki coalition. Allawi would have to reach out to the Kurds (who don't trust his Arab Nationalism) and the INA (though Sadr despises his secularism). If the Sadrists are truly the dominant party in the INA it will make it difficult for the INA to join a coalition involving either Maliki or Allawi due to Sadr's ability to exert control over the alliance.
This is all an indication that Iraq has developed an actual representative democracy, that while imperfect, is a beacon for the entire Arab World and their Persian neighbor.
For an excellent province by province breakdown with percentages follow this link. Though recent reports indicate Allawi has moved into second in Baghdad. The Wall Street Journal also has an updated electoral breakdown here.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Though it hasn't received the attention it deserved, Iraqis took to the streets to vote in their first national election since 2005.
A few words about how it operates. There are 325 seats in the Iraqi Council of Representatives. The COR is the unicameral legislative body of the Republic of Iraq. 310 seats were at stake in this election with the other 15 being given to minorities (like Christians) and the dominant political parties based off of results.
I owe the following seat breakdown to the Institute for the Study of War, this site is the academic gold standard for higher level breakdowns of the Long War. They produced a pre-election write-up that is worth reading as well.
Al Anbar -- 14 Seats (Sunni)
Babil -- 16 Seats (Shi'a)
Baghdad -- 68 Seats (Mixed)
Basra -- 24 Seats (Shi'a)
Dahuk -- 10 Seats (Kurd)
Dhi Qar -- 18 Seats (Shi'a)
Diyala -- 13 Seats (Mixed)
Irbil -- 14 Seats (Kurd)
Karbala -- 10 Seats (Shi'a)
Kirkuk -- 12 Seats (Mixed)
Maysan -- 10 Seats (Shi'a)
Muthanna -- 7 Seats (Shi'a)
Ninewah -- 31 Seats (Sunni/Kurd)
Qadisiyah -- 11 Seats (Shi'a)
Salah ah Din -- 12 Seats (Sunni)
Sulaymaniyah -- 17 Seats (Kurd)
Wasit -- 11 Seats (Shi'a)
Compensatory and Minority Seats -- 15 Seats
I plan to make some comments later in the week when the initial results are published, but for now, I want to provide some analysis of the provincial turnout.
I owe these numbers to Michael Rubin over at National Review Online who pulled them from this Arabic website.
Erbil - 76%
Sulaymania - 73%
Kirkuk - 73%
Salah Al Deen - 73%
Ninewa (Mosul)- 66%
Babil - 63%
IRAQ - 62.4%
Diyala - 62%
Karbala - 62%
Diwaniya - 62%
Al Anbar - 61%
Najaf - 61%
Al Muthanna - 61%
Dhi Qar - 60%
Wasit - 60%
Basra - 57%
Baghdad - 53%
Maysan - 50%
I agree that the Duhok results are suspicious and there is a chance that the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) engaged in some ballot stuffing.
What stands out is the low turnout in Maysan, Basra, Wasit and Dhi Qar Provinces. These four provinces all have turnout of 60% or below. These are predominately Shi'a provinces that in the past were dominated by the Islamic Supreme Council in Iraq (ISCI, formerly SCIRI). ISCI and its Badr and Sadrist allies united under the Iraqi National Alliance. This is the most Iranian friendly and the most sectarian of the political lists. Low turnouts in the Shi'a south likely indicate that like the 2009 provincial election, the extreme Shi'a religious parties fared poorly.
I really don't know what to make about the low turnout in Baghdad. I read anecdotal evidence of good turnout in Adamiyah, a Sunni stronghold in East Baghdad. Low turnout in Baghdad likely will hurt Maliki's State of Law list, but could also impact Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List. I think despite the turnout, Maliki will win Baghdad and Allawi will finish a very close second.
The Sunni provinces (with the exception of Al Anbar - though Al Anbar is so monolithic, the Sunni representation from the province will not be negatively impacted), Diyala, Salah ah Din, Ninewa and Kirkuk had high turnouts. This bodes well principally for Ayad Allawi's list as the Sunnis have more willingly embraced his secular list.
I think Maliki's list will finish first in the election, but Ayad Allawi's list will finish a close second. This will make for some entertaining jockeying as the two lists attempt to be the first to form a governing coalition. This will require doing business with either the INA, the Kurds, or the Sunni List. Stay Tuned.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
There were two major victories today in the Long War on Islamic Jihadism.
The lesser of the two, though perhaps, more satisfying, was the capture of Adam Ghaddan, aka Azzam the American, the media emir of Al Qaeda and an American Traitor. He's an American born convert to Islam who subsequently embraced a Jihadi Salafist ideology. While he may not have been privy to operations, it is likely that he knows the C2 of Al Qaeda in Pakistan and the ISI will likely be quite adept at interrogating the terrorist. Hopefully then, he can be returned to the United States to face the punishment for his treason.
The more important victory is Iraq. The Iraqis held their first national election since the Sunni-boycotted election of 2005. Initial reports indicate an electoral turnout higher than expected for the election. This is vital to ensure that the Sunni minority feels enfranchised and part of the New Iraq. The 2005 election left the Sunnis severely underrepresented and proved a boon for Al Qaeda and other Sunni Insurgent Groups.
Al Qaeda and Sunni Insurgent groups have to disrupt the elections in order to de-legitimize the current government by suppressing turnout. These groups will even target their co-religious. Yet, as Michael Yon documented during his time in Iraq, the Iraqi people, Sunni and Shi'a, have rejected the nihilistic ideology of Al Qaeda and its ilk.
Yet voters still came. In Azamiyah, Walid Abid, a 40-year-old father of two, was speaking as mortars landed several hundreds yards away. "I am not scared and I am not going to stay put at home. Until when? We need to change things. If I stay home and not come to vote, Azamiyah will get worse," he said.
Adamiyah is a Sunni neighborhood in Eastern Baghdad. It was once the heart of Al Qaeda in Baghdad but gave birth to the Sunni Awakening in the city and helped to drive out Al Qaeda.
No longer are we talking about where the violence will take Iraq. Now the conversation turns to the electoral consequences. Will Prime Miniter Maliki's Dawa Party follow up its success in the Provincial Elections of 2009 and continue to be Iraq's dominant political party? He's being challenged by a coalition of Shi'a parties with extensive ties to Iran. This coalition of religious Shi'a parties was repudiated in the Provincial election, will that carry over into the National Election? The more hopeful challenge is by the former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secular Shi'a who is leading a coalition of secular parties, both Sunni and Shi'a. Allawi's vision is the most hopeful for Iraq, but all three groups are seeking their vision of a new Iraq at the ballot box. That is a fundamental change that highlights how far Iraq has come.
President Obama praised the Iraqis for their courage. While President Obama would have left an Iraq awash in violence and without hope, he has as President, continued the work of his predecessor President Bush. Vice President Biden had the gall to argue that a peaceful Iraq will be one of the Obama Administration's greatest achievement. While Bush should get most of the credit, the Obama Administration saw the wisdom, despite what they campaigned on, to continue the course and for that, they deserve our thanks.
Monday, March 1, 2010
The translation has been under attack, particularly from Catholics who believe that Vatican II did not go far enough in modernizing the Church and the Liturgy. Fr. Michael Ryan has led this charge in America magazine and has done his best to foment a popular movement against the new translation. His article alleges rather dramatically that "Not in my wildest dreams would it have occurred to me then that I would live to witness what seems more and more like the systematic dismantling of the great vision of the council’s decree. But I have. We Catholics have." The National Catholic Reporter, that paragon of Orthodox Catholicism in America (sarcasm) has of course, come to Fr. Ryan's defense and urged its readers to support this priest.
Fr. Zuhlsdorf of "What Does the Prayer Really Say" provides an excellent parsing of Fr. Ryan's letter.
It is a saying in the Eastern Church that how we pray, informs our beliefs. Archbishop Serratelli, the chair of the USCCB's Committee on Divine Worship, has penned a response in America Magazine. Archbishop Serratelli notes that "The well-known axiom Lex orandi, lex credendi, reminds us that what we pray is not only the expression of our sentiment and our reverence directed toward God, but what we pray also speaks to us and articulates for us the faith of the church. Our words in the liturgy are not simply expressions of one individual in one particular place at one time in history. Rather, they pass on the faith of the church from one generation to the next."
The new translation is more faithful to Scripture and contains a rich and flowing language not always found in the current translation. Below are some examples of the new translation, one that I feel is an improvement because it does exactly what it intends to do, express deep theological truths about the Catholic faith in our prayers.
Glory to God in the highest,
Lord Jesus Christ,
Glory to God in the highest,
Lord Jesus Christ, Only Begotten Son,
We believe in one God,
I believe in one God,
Ecce Agnus Dei
Priest: This is the Lamb of God
All: Lord, I am not worthy
Priest: Behold the Lamb of God,
All: Lord, I am not worthy
And if you want an opportunity to study up on the new translation: Understanding the Revised Mass Text from the Liturgical Training Publications.