Juan Cole is pessimistic:
Elections in Iraq cannot be held to international standards. There typically are no big public rallies, for fear that they would be blown up by Sunni Arab guerrillas. Candidates can seldom campaign publicly for fear of assassination. For the election itself, the US military declares a curfew and prohibits vehicular traffic for three days. Everyone is reduced to walking to the store to buy bread and other necessities. You can't drive. This measure prevents car bombings of the polling stations.
So why does the US still have 120,000 troops in Iraq?
They aren't for the most part doing patrols anymore. They are just being kept in place so that they can swing into action as soon as the election date is fixed, and protect the electoral process from sabotage by bombing.
Is this rationale really a good enough reason to keep so many troops in Iraq? Shouldn't the Iraqi army by now be able to supervise a vehicular curfew on its own? And, why should the Obama administration care if the election is held or not? Saudi Arabia hasn't held any elections lately and it is our ally. The Iraqis were made by the U.S. to have several elections, and they know how to do it if they want to. Why allow their interminable parlays on basic things like an electoral law to hold U.S. troops hostage in the country with nothing much to do for a year?
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