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Successful Elections Deal Blow to Terrorists

By John Valceanu
American Forces Press Service

ARABIAN GULF REGION, Feb. 10, 2005 – Terrorists operating in Iraq have received a blow to their credibility, based on successful Iraqi elections and coupled with an inability to interject their agenda into U.S. elections, according to a senior military officer in the region today.

Though they increased their attacks in recent months, terrorists and insurgents in Iraq were unable to influence the November U.S. presidential election. They also could not prevent the Iraqi people from turning out to take part in their own election on Jan. 30. Both these objectives were important to the insurgents, the officer said, speaking on background.

"The insurgents wanted to make them [the Iraqi elections] untenable to the point where they could claim national illegitimacy," the officer said. "As we all saw, they were not able to do that."

Instead of being part of a well-orchestrated campaign, recent terrorist attacks in Iraq can be characterized as "a bunch of sloppy, undisciplined, localized events," according to the officer. Many recent attacks have been conducted against Iraqi forces.

"Our troops are a hard target for them, so they've been going after Iraqi police and security forces," the officer said. "But they've had to deal with the 'overhead' of killing other Muslims, killing their fellow Iraqis."

This violence has further alienated terrorists and other extremists from the Iraqi people, according to the officer.

Most of Iraq's major groups, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, should be able to find a place to participate within the framework of the government being put together by Iraq's newly elected leaders, the officer said. He also pointed out that adapting to democracy will require a major shift in the way some Iraqis think about their government.

"Until very recently, it was completely inconceivable for some Sunni Muslims in Iraq to think that they would be able to live under a government that Shiites helped organize," the officer said. "It takes time for people to get used to radical new ideas."

As the newly elected Iraqi government begins to take shape, the officer said he thinks the country is being brought closer together by the process.

"Over the past 10 days I've seen a movement toward participation and away from renunciation," the officer said. "I'm much less worried about civil war in Iraq now than I was 10 days ago."

Issues surrounding Iraq's elections were different from the ones surrounding Afghanistan's own elections in October 2004. But the first free elections in the two countries were major moves forward for each of them, according to the officer.

"I don't think the Iraqi election was the societal galvanizing event that the Afghan election was," the officer said. "But I do think it will have a cauterizing effect on the country."

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