As the insurgency to the US occupation rages, President Bush insists on Iraq holding elections on January 30, 2004. After all, he campaigned on being consistent - and not being a flip-flopper - so, staying the course on the January date fits his profile.
But one major downside to staying this course is that thousands of people may be killed, especially in the Sunni region. Under such violent conditions, few voters will risk their lives to turn out. On Jan. 30, Sunnis can't hope to win even those few seats in a parliment that their 20% minority status deserves. With this announcement of his determination to conduct the election on schedule, Bush signals to several million Sunni citizens that they are going to be left largely unrepresented. Such bad news cannot help but encourage young Sunni men to join the resistance.
An even worse surprise may await the Bush regime when, as is likely, a majority Shia government enjoys a real mandate, perhaps over 70% of the votes cast. There are good reasons to predict that a Shite-governed Iraq will speedily become an Islamic theocracy (next door to the Shia theocracy in Iran) - and that the mullahs will send the American military and corporations packing. Even worse, the Shites may avenge many years of persecution at the hands of the Sunis. An Iraqi civil war cannot be good news for US interests in that oil-rich region. Such a result would also present far qreater security dangers to the US than anything Saddam Hussein could have threatened.
This would not be the Bush administration's first misjudgment about what happens next in Iraq.