New uncertainty in Iraq

The Iraq election results were announced on Friday. Former Prime Minister Allawi’s party won 91 seats, two more than current Prime Minister Maliki’s party. At one level, this can be viewed as a victory for what passes in Iraq as moderation. Allawi is a secular Shiite whose success in this election is down to his ability to attract Sunni and secular voters. Thus, a banner headline in the influential Saudi newspaper, al-Awsat, greeted the results by announcing “The Awakening of Moderation in Iraq.”
However, Allawi faces major obstacles to becoming Prime Minister. For one thing, Maliki and his party are challenging the election results. For another, he has already persuaded Iraq’s highest court to declare that the right to form a government can go to a combination of parties that merge after the election. This might enable Maliki’s “State of Law” party to combine with another Shiite faction and claim the right to form a government.
But even if Allawi gets the first crack, he may find it difficult to cobble together a majority. The third place Shiite Iraq National Alliance and the fourth place Kurdistan Alliance both seem better suited for an alliance with Maliki than with Allawi. To make matters worse, the National Alliance might insist that someone other than Maliki be in charge. Thus, the new Prime Minister might be worse, and more pro-Iranian, than the current one, with whom we seem to be able to live.
If Allawi is shut-out, Sunnis will no doubt feel aggrieved. And with the Obama administration racing to remove troops from Iraq, they might also feel sufficiently vulnerable to take up arms.
In sum, the immediate future of Iraq looks quite uncertain, and all the more so because of President Obama’s lack of concern for that future.

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