Monday, December 27, 2004
In an audiotape broadcast Monday by Al-Jazeera satellite television, a man purported to be Osama bin Laden endorsed Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of next month's elections there.
We will soon learn the depths of al Qaeda's support in Iraq, for it now can fairly be said that merely showing up to vote is a vote against bin Laden. It always was -- President Bush has said so from the start -- and now bin Laden is agreeing with him. Is this a public relations battle that he can win, even against the United States (which loses just about every public relations battle that it joins)? I think it is a mistake for bin Laden to force Iraqis to take sides at this point, but that is what he has done. I predict that Iraqis are going to show up and vote in force. No pun intended.
Interesting point on the PR face-off, but the relevant question is how does the Sunni Arab population react, not the entire population of Iraq. If there is the infrastructure to have elections and the Sunni Arabs come out in reasonable numbers, then it is a clear US win, and vice versa for Al-Quaeda.
However the question is can elections actually be held in most of the Sunni Arab areas of the country? At my blog I am linking to an AP article which is stating that the entire election workforce in Mosul has resigned. So the third largest city in Iraq is, a month out, incapable of holding an election for class president, much less a constitutional assembly. Fallujah's residents won't be voting as their city is in ruins, and Al-Anbar province in general is a security mess.
Donald Rumsfeld's statement that the elections may only be able to be held in three quarters or four fifths of the country looks to me to be a reasonable statement if the elections are not rescheduled (with all of those attendant problems). However the 20-25% of the country where security is a massive issue are the Sunni Arab areas, which is the target audience of Bin Laden's message. So it may not be a test after all.