It’s almost a month since the Iraqi elections, but official results
have still not been released. Unofficial figures, however, give a
reasonably clear idea of the picture. Here is the standing of the main groupings, as given by Adam Carr at Psephos:

Shi’ites 43.8% 113 seats
Kurds 20.6% 45 seats
Sunnis 13.8% 35 seats
Secularists 8% 21 seats
Others 14% 16 seats

– with another 45 seats to be distributed according to nationwide levels of support.

In other words, it looks as if the main Shi’ite alliance will not have
a majority in its own right, and even in coalition with the Kurds it
will be short of the two-thirds majority needed to govern alone. The
Sunnis have improved their position significantly by participating (in
contrast to their boycott of the previous election), although they still claim
that the poll was rigged against them. Violence has returned to Iraq in
the last fortnight, but the elections themselves were conducted in an
atmosphere of relative calm.

While this is a good news story for democracy in Iraq, it cuts against
the official American (and Australian) line on the insurgency. Most of
the insurgents are not driven by al-Qa’eda fanaticism, but by political
goals, and they seem prepared to pursue a two-track strategy for
achieving them – both political participation and armed resistance,
much like Hamas in the Palestinian territories.

The official line, however, continues to maintain that “cutting and
running” would just deliver victory to the terrorists. Alexander
Downer, responding to Kim Beazley’s point that the occupation was just
making things worse, said this week
that it would be “grossly irresponsible [to] just storm out of the
country and abandon it to the terrorists and insurgents.” Neil James
gives a more intelligent version of the same line in today’s Australian.

It almost seems as if these people think the Iraqis are just itching to
embrace al-Qa’eda, and only a massive military presence can stop them.
More likely, they are haunted by the Vietnam experience. But al-Qa’eda
isn’t North Vietnam; there is no organised army waiting to move in if
the Americans leave. On the contrary, the best thing we could do for
the new government’s stability would be to promise an agreed rapid
withdrawal of foreign troops.