I'll be moderating a "conversation" with US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill at the Brookings Doha Center tomorrow. In thinking about questions to ask him, I've been trying to get a better handle on the slowly solidifying perceptions of the March 7th results. And one of the post-election memes that's starting to irritate me is that Islamist parties were soundly defeated. This presumably signals a "new Iraq," one that is moving in a post-sectarian direction, with Iyad Allawi's "secular" coalition its new face. Well, while this rather convenient theme isn't necessarily 100% incorrect, it's kind of misleading.
First of all, it's slightly odd to call Allawi's Iraqiyya coalition "secularist," considering one of the leading coalition figures, Tareq al Hashemi, is an Islamist and, until recently, led the Iraqi Islamic Party, effectively the political arm of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood.
That quibble aside, all you have to do is exert some effort and count up the seats to find that Islamists did pretty damn well (alth. The State of Law coalition, led by Maliki's Islamist Dawa Party, won 89 seats. The Iraqi National Alliance (INA), led by the very Islamist Sadrists and very Islamist Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), won around 70 seats. If we add these together that pretty much comes out to 159 seats, which seems awfully close to the 163 seat threshold needed to form a government, something which, we can surmise, has not escaped Iran's notice.