This Washington Post editorial discusses a serious and under-reported problem in Iraq — the disqualfication of more than 500 would-be candidates in the upcoming parliamentary election. Most of the disqualified candidates are Sunnis who once supported the Baath party to one degree or another. Some of them are prominent leaders, including the current defense minister and the head of a major political bloc.
As the Post argues, if the ban stands, it will mean that an election that once promsed to be one of the most free in the history of the Arab world has been badly degraded. In addition, the ban might reignite the sectarian warfare that looked as if it might tear Iraq apart before the 2007 surge. There is already some evidence that this is occurring.
The Post urges the Obama administration to use its leverage to have the ban moderated so that legitimate Sunni leaders can get back on the ballot. And it notes that Vice President Biden has been “working the phones” for this purpose.
But it’s not going to be easy. Prime Minister Maliki appears to support the ban, though president Talibani does not, and has asked for a ruling on its legality.
There have been times in the past when the political situation in Iraq was in crisis and the U.S. was able to knock heads and hammer out a settlement. But that was before we began our rush to exit the country. As things stand now, it’s not clear that we have any real levearge in Iraq.
Thus, Biden can talk from now until election day (for him, a labor of love). Unless the Shiite leaders reach the counterintuitive (for them) conclusion that they have more to lose than to gain by excluding so many opposition candidates, it will be to no avail.
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