For the third time this year, the Sunni Arab terrorist groups are trying to halt national elections. The attacks this time are concentrated on candidates for the National Assembly. The terrorists appear to have given up their attempt to stop Iraqis from voting. Instead, they are trying to discourage candidates they feel that, if elected, will be hostile to terrorist goals. However, this time around, the Sunni Arab terrorists have competition. In the Shia Arab community, different factions are trying to intimidate, or even kill, opposing candidates. There are several major factions in the Shia community, including some, backed by Iran, that want to establish a religious dictatorship in Iraq.
Shia Islamic terrorists are becoming a problem. Not as bloody minded as their Sunni counterparts (best represented by al Qaeda), the Shia terrorists are more interested in scaring the Shia Arab majority into becoming devout Moslems. Shia Moslems. But most Iraqis are not hard core Moslems, and don't want to be. The election is seen as an opportunity to put into power a majority of conservative Shia politicians, which would then impose Sharia (religious) law on the nation. The problem with this is that the Kurds (20 percent of the population), want nothing to do with Sharia, which they see as another form of Arab domination. Sunni Arab terrorist groups also consider imposition of rule by a Shia religious government as unacceptable. The Sunni Arab religious hardliners consider Shia Moslems to be heretics.
While the terrorist violence continues to get most of the media coverage, the terrorist groups are very much on the defensive. For this weeks elections, the majority of Sunni Arabs are expected to turn out to vote. Only in some parts of sparsely populated Anbar province (the desert area of western Iraq) have the terrorists likely to keep many voters away from the polls. The Sunni Arab Islamic terrorists are now devoting most of their efforts to defending themselves. This means threats and attacks against Sunni Arabs in areas where the terrorists hide out. The local population must be convinced not to cooperate with the Americans or police. With the spread of cell phone service, that is becoming harder to do. U.S. troops operating in Sunni Arab areas are finding more and more support, although it is often in the form of anonymous tips via the phone, or whispered pleas, from Sunni Arabs encountered during a patrol or raid, to rid the neighborhood of Islamic terrorists. While the Sunni Arabs still want to be running the country once more, they have had it with al Qaeda and other Islamic radicals. Religious fanatics have a poor sense of public relations, preferring to berate, and beat, those who do not appear to be suitably Islamic. Suspected spies are summarily executed. Most of the armed Sunni Arab groups are non-religious, and are distancing themselves from the religious fanatics, and getting ready for a possible civil war.
The elections on December 15th will create a National Assembly that, next year, will create a new government and, demonstrate if a democratic Iraq can govern itself. In the Arab world, elections tend to lead to the winners changing the rules to insure that they stay in power for as long as possible, no matter what the voters want. Will that happen in Iraq? We're about to find out.