The fact that UN fixer Lakhdar Brahimi doubts that elections can be held in Iraq next month should not be surprising:
UN election adviser Lakhdar Brahimi cast fresh doubt on whether elections could take place in the present circumstances.
Brahimi told a Dutch newspaper in an interview published yesterday: ‘Elections are no magic potion, but part of a political process. They must be prepared well and take place at the right time to produce the good effects that you expect from them.’
Asked if elections under present conditions were possible, Brahimi said: ‘If the circumstances stay as they are, I personally don’t think so. It is a mess in Iraq.’
But are you surprised when Gen. John Abizaid says essentially the same thing?
Iraq’s security forces are unable to handle the challenge presented by the first elections since the fall of Saddam, even with extra American soldiers being deployed to help them, according to one of the US military’s most senior officers. The comments from General John Abizaid, head of US Central Command, follows months of statements by senior officials – from George Bush downwards – talking up Iraq’s new police and national guard forces.
‘It had been our hope that we would be able to have a combination of increases that mainly were Iraqi troops’ increases,’ Abizaid told reporters on the sidelines of a closed-door regional security conference. ‘And while the Iraqi troops are larger in number than they used to be, those forces have to be seasoned more, trained more. So, it’s necessary to bring more American forces.’
Abizaid, trading his military uniform for a dark suit and tie, declined to speculate on when the Iraqi forces would be ready. In September, George Bush said Iraq’s government commanded almost 100,000 trained, combat-ready Iraqis, including police, national guards and army; he had predicted that would rise to 125,000 by the end of 2004.
If you read this blog last week you may have seen a couple of my posts about the highway that connects Baghdad to the Baghdad International Airport. Both the U.S. and British Embassies have banned their respective citizens from travelling on that road, advising them to use helicopters instead.
It’s so dangerous that Australian Defense Minister Robert Hill was unable to reach the Australian Embassy in central Baghdad at all this weekend.
Such has been the escalation of violence in the run-up to the January 30 elections that for the first time in four visits, Australia’s Defence Minister could not make it to the centre of the Iraqi capital last Friday.
So dangerous has the main highway to and from the airport become, with daily suicide bombings, Senator Hill did not visit the Australian embassy or the Green Zone that comprises the headquarters of the US-led coalition forces in Iraq.
“This is the first time I’ve been unable to do that. It’s very dangerous – a number of countries are no longer travelling along it,” Senator Hill told The Australian yesterday.
“I would have (travelled into central Baghdad) if we’d had a helicopter, but they were being used for more important tasks.”
“I would say it’s more violent than on any of my previous visits,” he said.
“It’s a more dangerous place than it’s been since the downfall of Saddam (Hussein’s) regime. The insurgency is really quite intensive and extensive.”
Instead of making the hazardous run into the city, Senator Hill travelled in an armoured convoy to the US-run Camp Victory, a short distance from Baghdad airport.