In Iraq, as usual, deeply mixed messages. There appears to have been a successful coup against al Qaeda in Iraq, with the seizure of critical intelligence and the assassination of two leaders. And yet we still have a paralyzed government class, the capacity of even a decapitated al Qaeda to kill 72 innocents this past Friday, and a level of violence that would, in other contexts, be regarded more as the product of a failed state than a nascent democracy. But far worse is the prospect of a widespread recount of votes in the recent election which may well mean that the Shiite Maliki will beat out the more secular Shiite Allawi. Today, the unraveling picked up speed:

A special electoral court in Iraq disqualified a winning candidate in last month’s election on charges he once was a member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, two officials said Monday. The decision was the first concrete move to change the preliminary results of the vote that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s coalition narrowly lost. The court’s ruling intensified a political crisis that remains far from resolved, raising tensions and even the specter of violence. The court’s decision, at a minimum, will delay the formation of a new government through the months when the Obama administration has pledged to withdraw its combat troops, leaving a force of only 50,000 after September...  The court, however, also disqualified 51 losing candidates, and the votes they received will be discarded, requiring a recalculation of the winners and losers across the ballot, the officials said.

Even an established democracy like the US can unravel when, as in 2000, there was a clear question of legitimacy over the winner (an event that I think is still under-rated in explaining how polarized American politics still is today). Add sectarian divides, and US withdrawal ... and the surge is looking like a band-aid, not a cure.

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