Published in November 2004 issue of Prospect Magazine
Although the US presidential election has been contested, in part, on American conduct of the war in Iraq, the result of the election is likely to have little bearing on events in that country. For even in the unlikely event of John Kerry winning, Iraq’s short-term future is set – and it hinges on a historic transfer of power from the Sunni minority to the Shia majority. How the Shia elite wields that power, after 500 years of subordination, is now the key to everything. And as Bartle Bull vividly illustrates inside, the recent signs have been encouraging. Even representatives of the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr are signalling to the Sunnis that their minority rights will be respected in a Shia-dominated Iraq. In a part of the world where sectarian power has in the past been wielded ruthlessly it is vital that this message reaches its target; if it does, it could help to reduce the level of nihilistic Sunni violence in the run-up to January’s election and speed the arrival of a stable Iraq.