Day by Day

Monday, December 19, 2005

Iraq's Parliamentary Elections - December 15th, 2005

8 million voted in January, 10 million voted in October and 15 million Iraqis voted in their first Parlimentary Elections. Iraq is now a constitutional democracy. Eighty Percent turned out to vote in Saddam's home province.

An Iraqi Family Reports:
The picture looks so good it is hard to believe my ears as my father is telling me all this. Iraqi media is very upset and angry at Ramsey Clark who they feel is giving the enemy fuel for their fire. As well as the Scottish MP George Galloway is doing tremendous damage to the democratic movement in Iraq. The Iraqi media accuses them both of taking "Oil for loyalty" money as they call it. A great thank you again to this great country of ours from the Ajinas in Iraq & the U.S.A for freedom, self rule and a bright future.

An administration official has some details :
Turn-out in Fallujah estimated at 220,000. It was 20,000 in October. 50,000 in Ramadi v. 5,000 in October. 40,000 in Western Anbar v. several hundred in October.
There were 6,250 polling stations, and a total of 35 security incidents. That's down considerably from January and October. Fatalities were one U.S. soldier, 10 Iraqi civilians, two Iraqi security forces, and one terrorist. The U.N. reports that no polling places were closed because of security incidents.
Voting was extended by one hour to accommodate crowds, and 97 1/2% of voting centers were open and ready to go by 10 a.m. local time.
There are reports of voter fraud in localities, but nothing major, and there was some voter intimidation in Anbar.
Ballot counting has started and will take at least two weeks.
This is how the process works going forward: Within 15 days of the certification of the results, the Council of Representatives (COR) is convened. At its first session it selects a speaker and two deputies by an absolute majority. Then, the COR selects a presidency council--a prez and two vices--by a two-thirds majority. This is where the problem enters in.
There's no deadline for selecting the presidency council. Therefore there is a danger this could really slip and take forever. Zal will have to be leaning on them very, very hard.
Once the presidency council is selected it has 15 days to agree unanimously on a prime minister designate. He has to come from the party with the most seats. It is thought likely that the presidency council and the prime minister--perhaps the speaker too--will all be agreed to together as part of a big package deal involving three or four parties.
Then, the prime minister designate has 30 days to select a cabinet (most important slots: interior and defense) and come up with a ministerial program, all of which are submitted to the COR for approval by an absolute majority.
Finally, the are all sworn in.

A Sunni Arab Reports:

"Before, we had a dictator, and now we have this freedom, this democracy," said Emad Abdul Jabbar, 38, a teacher acting as supervisor at the Ahrar school polling site. "This time, we have a real election, not just the sham elections we had under Saddam, and we Sunnis want to participate in the political process."
A 60-year-old merchant, Abdul Kader al-Saffar, and his wife, Ammal Abdul Razzaq, 40, who voted with their three sons, agreed. "We have found candidates in this election we can trust," Mr. Saffar said, referring to the Iraqi Consensus Front, a moderate Sunni group that had several of its political workers killed during the campaign.
Another thing many Sunnis seemed to agree on was the possibility of a reconciliation between the Americans and the Sunnis, and a distancing of the Sunnis from some of the Al Qaeda-linked insurgent groups. Many were critical of American troops, saying, as Mr. Saleh did, that "they came as liberators, but stayed on as occupiers." But pressed on the question of an American troop withdrawal, most seemed cautious, favoring a gradual drawdown.
"Let's have stability, and then the Americans can go home," said Mr. Sattar, the store owner. Told that this sounded similar to President Bush's formula for a troop withdrawal, he replied: "Then Bush has said it correctly".

A Sunni Arab Leader wants a Coalition Government

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A leading Sunni politician said Friday his party would be open to an alliance with secular Shiites and Kurds to form a coalition government to run the country once the results are in from this week's parliamentary elections. "We will not accept the exclusion of any segment of the Iraqi people unless they themselves don't want to participate," said Adan al-Dulaimi, a former Islamic studies professor who heads a Sunni Arab bloc that is now expected to have power in parliament. U.S. officials view al-Dulaimi, who heads an alliance called the Iraqi Accordance Front, as a possible intermediary who could persuade some Sunni-led insurgent groups in restive Anbar province to join the political process after boycotting previous votes.
Shiites account for about 60 percent of the country's 27 million people. Shiite politician, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, said the Shiites would try to form an "inclusive" government even if they don't have to. He accused "some foreign embassies" of "working very hard" to manipulate the results. Under the newly ratified constitution, the party with the biggest number of seats gets first crack at trying to form a government that can win parliament's endorsement. A government with strong Sunni Arab representation could help defuse the Sunni-dominated insurgency and allow the United States and its coalition partners to begin removing troops next year.

On Friday, General George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told Pentagon reporters in a video teleconference that he will make recommendations in the next few weeks about troop withdrawals from Iraq. "We should not expect the insurgency to just go away because of yesterday's great success," Casey said. "But we should expect it to be gradually weakened and reduced as more and more Iraqis adopt the political process and the root causes of the insurgency are addressed by the new Iraqi government and by the coalition." He expects the force level will drop back to 138,000 by early February. By late next fall, the Iraqi military should be able to largely take the lead in the country's defense, with continued support from U.S. and coalition transition teams.
"We just had the election, we're doing our assessments, and I'll make some recommendations in the coming weeks here about whether I think it's prudent to go below that baseline," said Casey, adding that the two extra battalions that were sent to Iraq for election security will be heading home in January.
But he made it clear that U.S. forces will still be in the lead in portions of Iraq until sometime in 2007. Depending on the progress of the new Iraqi government ministries, he said it will take until then for Iraqi security to be able to completely take control of its forces across the country. As Iraqi security takes over, U.S. troops will be able to withdraw. And even with Iraqi forces in the lead, some levels of U.S. support would still be needed for support. There are about 153,000 U.S. troops in Iraq now. Casey also said the Iraqi police forces would not be able to take charge of internal security until late next year or early 2007.
Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Samir Sumaidaie, pleaded with the United States to stick with Iraq until it is stable. "I believe that yesterday was a great day for Iraq. It was a great day for freedom," he said. "I think it was a turning point and the beginning of the end of terrorism in Iraq." Casey said conditions along Iraq's border with Syria have improved, leading to a decrease in suicide bombings. He said coalition operations have restored Iraqi control of the border and the Syrians appear to have taken steps to pick up foreign fighters coming through there. As a result, he said, suicide attacks declined from more than 60 last June, to less than one a day this month. In contrast, he said Iran appears to have meddled more than any other border country in the Iraqi election. "And I believe that they will continue to attempt to influence the formation of this government over the coming weeks to get a government that they believe is supportive of their interests," he said. "That is worrisome and it is a challenge for us." Battles between various factions of the insurgency, particularly in Sunni-dominated regions of the country, helped tamp down election-day violence, he said, as Sunni's fought back against al-Qaida efforts to prevent them from going to the polls.

Meanwhile, we continue to make steady progress rebuilding Iraq:

Brig. Gen. Bill McCoy is "Mr. Fix-It," commanding the nerve center of U.S.-led reconstruction, where 500 convoys a week and $10 billion in goods and services are distributed through Iraqi ministries. He's overseen more than 3,000 projects, most of them completed. "The biggest challenge is working in this environment where it's hard to get out," says McCoy. "It's hard to make a difference fast." But the effort, officials say, is paying off. The new Iraq is beginning to prosper. Since the war, the average Iraqi salary has increased 100 times, from $2 to $200 a month. Unemployment has been halved from 60 percent to 30 percent. And more than 33,000 new small businesses have been created. Many, like Hussein Shabibi's bakery, were created without any government help. Business is good - hundreds of affluent customers a month spend up to $50 for one of his designer cakes. "They couldn't buy my cakes before the war," says Shabibi. But the challenge ahead is rebuilding Iraq during an insurgency that's taking a huge bite out of the U.S. reconstruction budget. About $4 billion has been spent so far on security alone. Just this week, Iraqi contractors abandoned a Baghdad school site and fled to Jordan under threat. There are hundreds of similar cases. "We finished a school, they're teaching in a school, and a terrorist comes in, drags the teachers out and murders them," says McCoy. But now the U.S. is trying a model that's worked in Afghanistan, pioneered by Zalmay Khalilzad, now the U.S. ambassador in Iraq. Provincial reconstruction teams - PRTs - are U.S. military units that also provide humanitarian help, including on-site construction, medical aid, even teaching government skills to locals. "Establishing PRTs is a new addition to our strategy of success in Iraq," says Khalilzad. But is there success when even oil production - Iraq's chief export - is below prewar levels, due largely to sabotage by insurgents? Mr. Fix-It says he will fix that, too. "I think they believe if they continue this attack that we'll tuck our tails and run," says McCoy. "That's not going to happen."

Indeed, General. Unless Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, John Murtha, John Kerry, Harry Reid, and the Democrats who follow their defeatist leadership get their way. Just last month they attempted a push for immediate withdrawal in a naked attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. McCoy is right, though. Cut-and-run is not happening. We will be victorious in Iraq and there will be hell to pay for a those who invested themselves in our defeat.

On Friday, the House passed House Resolution 612 “Expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to achieving victory in Iraq.”

The text of the bill states:
Whereas the Iraqi election of December 15, 2005, the first to take place under the newly ratified Iraqi Constitution, represented a crucial success in the establishment of a democratic, constitutional order in Iraq; and
Whereas Iraqis, who by the millions defied terrorist threats to vote, were protected by Iraqi security forces with the help of United States and Coalition forces: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That--
(1) the House of Representatives is committed to achieving victory in Iraq;
(2) the Iraqi election of December 15, 2005, was a crucial victory for the Iraqi people and Iraq's new democracy, and a defeat for the terrorists who seek to destroy that democracy;
(3) the House of Representatives encourages all Americans to express solidarity with the Iraqi people as they take another step toward their goal of a free, open, and democratic society;
(4) the successful Iraqi election of December 15, 2005, required the presence of United States Armed Forces, United States-trained Iraqi forces, and Coalition forces;
(5) the continued presence of United States Armed Forces in Iraq will be required only until Iraqi forces can stand up so our forces can stand down, and no longer than is required for that purpose;
(6) setting an artificial timetable for the withdrawal of United States Armed Forces from Iraq, or immediately terminating their deployment in Iraq and redeploying them elsewhere in the region, is fundamentally inconsistent with achieving victory in Iraq;
(7) the House of Representatives recognizes and honors the tremendous sacrifices made by the members of the United States Armed Forces and their families, along with the members of Iraqi and Coalition forces; and
(8) the House of Representatives has unshakable confidence that, with the support of the American people and the Congress, United States Armed Forces, along with Iraqi and Coalition forces, shall achieve victory in Iraq.

The Democrats presented a resolution praising Iraqis for the elections as well. Difference between the two? Our resolution mentioned "victory" 7 times, theirs didn't mention it at all. Ours passed 279 to 109. Who voted Yea and who voted Nay? Yea - 218 Republicans 59 Democrats Nay 108 Democrats 1 Independent. 32 gutless Democrats and 2 gutless Republicans voted "present." Pelosi and Murtha voted Nay.

Nancy Pelosi went crying to the cameras:
"Once again the Republican majority brings to the House floor a divisive resolution to denounce those who disagree," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Can't ask that people take a stand on whether or not we should be committed to victory in Iraq, eh Nancy? She's all about being "divisive" as long as it's not her party being divided.

Friday, Murtha (D-Mogadishu) had this to say:
“We’ve got nation building by the U.S. military, and that’s not a mission for the U.S. military,” Murtha said. “I’ve said this over and over again: They’re not good at nation building. You’ve given them a mission which they cannot carry out. They do the best they can, but they can’t do it.”

Guess the news that we'd created a constitutional democracy in Iraq the day before eluded him.

Just in case anyone wondered what the official Democrat plan for Iraq was, Nancy made sure to remind us that they don't have one:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said yesterday that Democrats should not seek a unified position on an exit strategy in Iraq, calling the war a matter of individual conscience and saying differing positions within the caucus are a source of strength for the party.

A strength? Sure, Nancy. Just keep telling yourself that.
"Pelosi said Democrats will produce an issue agenda for the 2006 elections but it will not include a position on Iraq. There is consensus within the party that President Bush has mismanaged the war and that a new course is needed, but House Democrats should be free to take individual positions, she sad.

What Nancy really meant to say was "President Bush broke it, so he bought it. I, as a leader in the Democrat party, will not offer any constructive advice because I want us to lose."
Representative. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on the day [Rep. John] Murtha offered his plan [for immediate surrender], "As for Iraq policy, at the right time, we'll have a position."

Sure ya will, Rahm. Luckily, Bush has always had a plan, and a dedication to victory, and we are seeing the positive results of that now as Iraq has officially become a constitutional democracy with improving economic and security conditions. No thanks to the Democrats.
There is no one Democratic voice . . . and there is no one Democratic position,” Pelosi said in an interview with Washington Post reporters and editors.

Thanks for clearin that up, Nancy.

Protein Wisdom has a roundup of some Lefty Blogs Reaction to the Iraqi Elections, and The Officer's Club observes: "They either 1) Pretended the elections never happened or 2) Mocked today's historic vote."

It's sad when we get more recognition for our success from the UN than we do from elected Democrats in this country:
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told President Bush Friday that he was pleased with the vote in Iraq as they discussed ways in which the international community could provide help in Iraq, the White House said. Annan told Bush that violence in Iraq was low, voter turnout was high and that the Iraqi people had cleared another hurdle "on the road to democracy," said Federick Jones, spokesman for the National Security Council.

This, from today, will really send the Democrats into hysterics:
Sunni Muslim leaders in Iraq’s violent Anbar province say they are ready to cooperate with the United States. They are seeking to extend a temporary truce honored by most insurgent groups for last week’s elections but say they want the United States to reduce military raids and increase development projects for their vast desert province, The Washington Times reports. Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of a prominent Sunni bloc, said insurgent groups had prevented violence from interfering with Thursday’s elections, the newspaper said. The truce resulted from weeks of negotiations between U.S. officials and insurgents. Sunni religious leader Sheik Abed al-Latif Hemaiym told The Times in an interview in Amman that Sunnis were prepared to work with the United States. “We now believe we must get on good terms with the Americans,” Hemaiym said. “As Arab Sunnis, we believe that within this hot area of Iraq, facing challenges from neighboring nations who want to swallow us, especially the Iranians, we feel we have no alternative.”

Along with the elections, I'd consider that a serious and substantial "benchmark of success".

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