While Iraqis have cast election ballots, it could be quite some time before a new government is chosen, and even then it might not be what the people of the country are actually seeking, says former Rep. Pete Hoekstra.
On Tuesday, Iraq held its first parliamentary elections since U.S. troops withdrew from the country at the end of 2011. More than 22 million voters are eligible to vote and will look to choose 328 lawmakers out of more than 9,000 candidates.
But Hoekstra, a Michigan Republican and former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum" on Newsmax TV that the structure of Iraq's government remains dysfunctional and the country is likely months from having its chosen leaders in place.
"I think the results we could maybe almost start talking about them today," Hoekstra said Wednesday. "The results are there's not going to be a clear-cut victor, victory.
"[Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki, you know he's not going to get enough seats in parliament, and then the real question begins, how long will negotiations take before there's a new government in place?
"There're estimates this could take up to a year before the parliamentarians actually agree on a new leader, so we're going to face an election today, but probably 12 months of indecision."
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Hoekstra says the root of the problem is that since the U.S. ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003, the ruling power has been distributed along communal, ethnic and tribal lines, and to date, sectarian strife among Shiites, Sunni Arabs and Sunni Kurds remains.
"When we pulled out of Iraq, there was no residual U.S. troop presence, there was no intelligence in this Iraqi government," Hoekstra said. "This Iraqi military and police force, they were not ready to maintain stability in Iraq, so what you had last year was close to 9,000 Iraqis killed in sectarian violence. This year they're running on a pace to match those numbers again.
"You've got parts of the country right now, Fallujah, Ramadi, they were overtaken by al-Qaida-linked units four months ago. The government's been trying to get them out of those cities for four months, they've been unsuccessful, so there's many parts of Sunni territory in Iraq that won't even vote.
"Then you've talked about Sunnis and Shias, and then you've also got the split, you know, in the northern part of Iraq, where you've got the Kurds, so it's a very ugly position right now. Throw in one more ingredient, [which is,] what's happening to the religious minorities?
"A city like Baghdad that used to be a very diverse, international city with Shias, Sunnis and Christians all living there together, it's now a Shia city. There used to be 600,000-700,000 Christians in Baghdad, most of them are now gone. You know Christians are being persecuted throughout that country."
While Hoekstra does not think the country wants to fall back under the rule of a dictator like Hussein, ultimately it may be seeking an authoritarian figure that won't emerge from a democratic election process, such as the current one.
"People want stability, they want security," Hoekstra said. "How are they going to get it? They believe that they're going to get it through another strongman, another dominant political figure who actually will diminish the opportunity for democracy and representative government. Consolidate power and use that power to bring security back into Iraq."
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