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November 30, 2023

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Staying optimistic in terms of Iraq

I try to be an optimist. I don’t enjoy being negative and don’t appreciate it in other people. I would much rather see the good in people — the light at the end of the tunnel.

Optimism has its time and place, and right now the situation in Iraq is one of those places.

Iraq has had its first free election in almost half a century without it turning into an all-out bloodbath. Despite the threats and fear outside terrorists tried to invoke in an attempt to stem democracy, people voted. Twenty-one Iraqis and two marines died in the process.

The Iraqis who voted did so because they are actively fighting for the light at the end of their tunnel. They did not want to sit under another oppressive regime, either from a foreign influence or their familiar Sunni dictator.

“I learned from my parents about past bitter days in my homeland and I voted in the hope of replacing that with a brighter future,” said Ahmad Abai, 21, while casting his ballot.

Correspondingly, many region experts are giving the country of Iraq a 50-50 chance of pulling out a limited representative government, though not like the United States and probably with an Islamic flavor. That is, as long as the post-voting situation doesn’t turn out to be a bloodbath and the ballot count goes off without a hitch (so far, so good).

While these predictions hardly merit Pollyanna bursting into song, a 50-50 chance is a great deal better than what was predicted just a few months ago.

There are two developments which support the brightened (though still pretty cloudy) outlook in Iraq:

One, as I said earlier, Iraq has pulled off a free election pretty smoothly, considering the fire it could have been under.

Two, Iraqis are showing signs of working together in the future.

Iraq has some pretty hefty religious and ethnic lines that could unevenly split the country now that it is out from under the thumb of a dictator. Right now, this split is the main danger in Iraq, more so than terrorism or even the “big, bad” United States.

Those who suffered under Saddam Hussein’s regime, mainly the Shiite majority (about three-fifths of the population) and the Kurds, are expected to work together. However, will they work with the Sunnis, the former ruling elite? Will the Sunnis work with them?

Feeding this danger, many Sunnis stayed home on election day, heeding the calls of hardliner Sunni clerics or fearing insurgent attacks. There is a chance that this will fuel the possibility of a Sunni-led insurgence against the new government.

However, this danger has lessened since recently Sunni politicians have offered to work together in mapping out the future of Iraq rather than facing the prospect of a Shiite Muslim landslide.

One of the leaders of this decision, Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi, told CNN that he had talked with Shiite and Kurdish leaders about a Sunni role in drafting the new constitution and “they all welcomed the idea.”

Pachachi hopes that “this will help to perhaps lessen the tensions and help in satisfying the country to some extent.”

I don’t care how pessimistic you are, this is a good sign.

There’s no doubt that this is a delicate situation. The Middle East’s track record of creating new governments, both with and without outside influence, aren’t very good.

One group’s quest for power could unravel everything they, and we, have worked for. The Kurds want autonomy, the long-repressed Shiites want supremacy and the Sunnis fear just that. Meanwhile, terrorists are continuing to detonate and kill in their determined effort to stop democracy in general.

In addition, public opinion in America has been why we should or shouldn’t have invaded Iraq in the first place, or why we should “stop” the killing in Iraq.

In light of this, it is important to recognize that the entrance of the war in Iraq is no longer the issue at hand, and I guarantee that the best way to stop killing in Iraq is NOT for the U.S. to pack up and leave.

What we need is to help Iraq set up a stable representative government and obtain a credible exit plan. This is the light at the end of the tunnel for us all, and who knows, maybe it’s possible, even promising.

Send comments to Jessica at [email protected].

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