Writing in the Toronto Star, Haroon Siddiqui explains why the apparent victory of Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in Iraq’s elections is bad for Bush regardless of how the White House spins it. If Sistani’s party wins, they will install an independent (of Iran as well as of the US) government that will force the Americans to leave. After that, who knows? Sistani wants what is best for Iraq, and he gets things done, his way, according to Dr. Juan Cole of U. Michigan. US control over oil and military bases in Iraq, two of the three objectives of the war (the third being reconstruction contracts for Halliburton et. al.) are not guranteed.
Sistani was able to force Bush to ignore Iyad Allawi’s warnings that the Shia would win direct elections which they did because Sistani organized local committees to get out the Shia vote. The result will be either a tough, clever, Islamic-rooted regime that thwarts the US’s goals, or an Algeria-like situation with the Americans canceling an election whose outcome they cannot accept. My money is on the former with Bush denying he got outsmarted and rewarding Rumsfeld and Rice et. al. for a job well-done while Sistani’s government systematically erases the US influence in Iraq so many Americans and Iraqis died for.