An Iraqi boy in Basra, southern Iraq, looks up at an election poster supporting interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi January 26, 2005. (AP/Richard Mills)
What happens in Iraq this weekend will help decide the chances of bringing democracy and stability to Iraq and the Middle East and might well determine the success or failure of the Bush presidency. Joining the panel to discuss this are Michael Rubin and Fouad Ajami. Michael Rubin is a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former official of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. He was the only official of the Provisional Authority to live outside the relative safety of the Green Zone. Fouad Ajami is director of the Middle East Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University and a contributor to the editorial pages of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.
"Watching the elections in Iraq, we get the bad of the violence and yet we see the good of so many millions of Iraqis preparing to vote to help set a new course for their country. What do you expect to happen on Sunday?"
"In the north of the country, where the Kurds are, I think you're going to see massive turnout. And in the south of the country, where the Shia are, again I think you're going to see massive turnout. Putting the Sunnis aside for a second, the fact of the matter is 80 percent of the country is politically sophisticated and has enthusiastically seized upon the idea of having elections."
"Let's say the Sunnis are intimidated from participating. They're voting for participation in a transitional government. They're going to create a constitution later in the year. Do you think that the Shiites will understand that these people were suppressed in this activity, in this election, and that they will try to incorporate them into the process post-election towards the constitution?"
"In 1920, when the Iraqi state was put together, the Shiite turned their backs on it and they lost. Now they admit that the rebellion they waged in 1920 was a calamity. The Sunnis have their own choice to make. They governed Iraq. Now they can no longer govern. Eventually, it will dawn on them that they have a big piece of Iraq, but not dominion over Iraq."
"I'll go out on a limb and predict there will be at least an American level of turnout in Iraq. ... And as a practical matter, they have to bring in the Sunnis, because to ratify the constitution. Any three provinces can veto the final constitution, and those could be the three Sunni provinces if they don't bring them in."
BIO: Fouad Ajami, Majid Khadduri Professor, Johns Hopkins