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January 2, 2005
Syria Injects Itself Into Iraqi Elections

Syria has started an initiative to facilitate voting amongst its Iraqi expatriate community in the upcoming elections, according to the AP:

Iraqi expatriates in Syria will have the opportunity to vote in this month's Iraqi elections under an agreement signed Sunday between the Syrian government and the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration.

More than 250,000 Iraqis are believed to be living in Syria. Many of them fled here to escape worsening security conditions since the onset of the U.S.-led war that ousted former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein last year.

The agreement says Iraqis wishing to cast their votes in Syria must prove their eligibility and register at a Damascus election center from Jan. 17 to 23. Polling will take place over three days, from Jan. 28 to 30.

Does anyone in the State Department think this is a bad idea? The Iraqis in Syria likely will be the Saddam loyalists that fled in the face of the American invasion, hardly likely to support a democratic process in their homeland. Nor do their Ba'athist cousins in Syria have much use for representative government. Since when does a military dictatorship like Syria get trusted to conduct an honest election for another country? It seems to me that the US, UK, and the Iraqis themselves want to avoid Syrian influence on this election, not invite it.

Richard Armitage, unfortunately, appears to have endorsed this:

Following a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Sunday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told reporters he had stressed the "absolute importance of the Iraqi elections" and the full participation of all Iraqis.

"I believe I found here in Syria the same view," he said.

Following his visit, a Foreign Ministry statement said the Syrian and U.S. sides "agreed on the need for Iraqi elections to succeed in a way that represents the entire Iraqi people."

If this is an example of the Powell approach to foreign affairs and the war on terror, I look forward to Condoleezza Rice's stewardship at State with an impatient glee. Hopefully Armitage will already have left before she gets her coat off.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 2, 2005 11:11 PM

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