Why the Iraqi elections are so important

As Iraq approaches its general elections on March 7, we should take yes for an answer. The American project in Iraq has midwifed that rarest of creatures in the Greater Middle East: a government that emerges out of the consent of the governed. We should trust the Iraqis with their own history. That means letting their electoral process play out against the background of the Arab dynasties and autocracies, and of the Iranian theocracy next door that made a mockery out of its own national elections…

Nor is it true that a sister republic of the Iranian theocracy is emerging in Baghdad, as some American officials have suggested. This is a slur on Iraq and Iraqis, and on the vast Shiite majority to be exact.

So Iran has designs on Iraq. Well what of it? A long border, the traffic of centuries in faith and commerce, runs between the two countries. But no Iraqi project in the offing contemplates making Iraq a satrap of the Persian state. The Iraqis are neither Lebanese seeking outside patronage, nor Palestinians in need of money and guns from foreign donors. They are a tough breed, they have their own material means, oil aplenty, and a determination to keep their country whole and theirs.

If anything, that border with Iran concentrates the Iraqi mind. The Iraqis know their Persian neighbors. The kind of romance about Iran entertained in the Bekaa Valley and Greater Beirut, or in the Gaza Strip, has no takers in Iraq. The Shiism of Iraq is tenacious and Arab through and through.