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Tipsheet: Iraqi elections

EDITORS: The following Indiana University Bloomington faculty members can offer their insights on the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections.

No matter what the outcomes are of Sunday's elections in Iraq, they will have no bearing on the great lapses of security there, according to Zaineb Istrabadi, associate director of the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Program at Indiana University Bloomington. "The election will not have a bearing on the security situation in Iraq. United States officials said when Saddam's sons were caught, the attacks would subside, but they didn't. Then it was when Saddam himself was caught, the attacks would subside, but they didn't. Then it was when Mr. Bremer would hand over power to an Iraqi government, the attacks would subside. They've done nothing but increase. It's all nonsense and for domestic American consumption. There's no security. There's no water. There's no electricity," she said. "The security concerns could have been addressed from "day one," but the United States gave the green light for chaos to reign and this is what's happened." Istrabadi is an Iraqi-American who is very well informed about conditions in Iraq and has relatives there. Her brother is IU alum Feisal Istrabadi, Iraq's new ambassador to the United Nations and one of the principal legal drafters of the country's interim constitution. She can be reached at 812-856-0372 (office), 812-855-5993 (department office), 812-339-9263 (home) or

"Ultimately, the success of the elections in Iraq will hinge less on whether the process was marred by violence than on which political parties gain degrees of authority," said Jamsheed K. Choksy, professor in the departments of Central Eurasian Studies and History and adjunct professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Choksy, a specialist on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, has traveled extensively in those regions working with members of the many religious and ethno-linguistic groups. "The citizens of Iraq -- be they Shi'ites, Sunnis or Christians, of Arab, Kurdish or Iranian backgrounds -- will judge the outcome of the elections on the degree to which it reflects their aspirations of national self sovereignty and of equitable demographic and regional representation." Choksy said the elections provide Iraqis with a unique opportunity to craft their own identity on the international stage and move toward a new, prosperous future rather than fall further into factionalism. "These elections are a step in the right direction, for the United States and its coalition cannot ensure peace and success. Only Iraqis themselves can abjure violence and reach coexistence through collaboration with each other as their ancestors did so successfully between the ninth and 13th centuries to create a golden age for Near Eastern societies," said Choksy, who wrote about that earlier historical process in his book Conflict and Cooperation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997). Professor Choksy can be contacted at 812-855-8643 or

Whether the Iraqi elections are perceived as legitimate will have less to do with violent attacks and the Sunni boycott, than with the fact that many view the voting as American-sponsored elections brought about by illegitimate means, according to Dina Spechler, associate professor of political science at IUB. Spechler said that it's not just American influence on the elections that Sunnis and others in the Arab world who have denunciated the elections are objecting to, but the "brazen use of force when the use of force wasn't justified." While many people certainly will view the elections as illegitimate, Spechler believes the overall perception could change over time. "The passage of time confers legitimacy," she said. "The elections may be perceived as illegitimate now, but if the democratic structure in Iraq succeeds, the perception of legitimacy will change, and in the long run, what is problematic now will matter less." She added that, despite the Sunni boycott, there are some positive signs for democracy, including the Sunnis expressed desire to be involved in the political process after the vote. Spechler, whose research interests include the international relations of the Middle East, can be reached at 812-855-5267 (office), 812-339-3777 (home), 812-336-3656 (home) or