The results of Iraq’s provincial elections are not yet final, but some analysts have already drawn conclusions about their meaning. Narrow interpretations on all sides of the Iraq policy debate have proliferated – some maintain that these elections demonstrate that the “surge worked,” while others have argued that “Iran lost” in these Iraqi elections. Still others cite the elections as evidence of a nationalist resurgence in Iraq that will enable sectarian and ethnic differences to melt away. Beyond these surface level analyses is an important story for not only the current state of play in Iraq’s domestic politics, but also broader shifts of U.S. policy in the region.
Last Saturday’s provincial elections in Iraq were the first in a series of tests of how well Iraq’s political leaders work together to advance their country’s political transition. This first test is not yet over—final election results are not in, and once they are announced, how the winning and losing parties act as new provincial governments are formed will set the tone for whether Iraq continues to achieve greater stability and make progress on building consensus over power-sharing arrangements.
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