Little by little

Yesterday's election in Iraq will not mark the end of the terrorist 'insurgency', but it is a key step in the constitutional process. Ordinary Iraqis have never given much support to the terrorists, but the self-evident and widespread support for the electoral process makes their task immeasurably harder.

Terrorists tried to prevent January's election from happening. They failed abysmally. Since 20-30% of people, even in new democracies, habitually abstain, a 60% participation rate represents an absolute maximum of 10% actively boycotting and a similar number intimidated into doing so. This time, as in the constitutional referendum, the terrorists, recognising that their boycott strategy had failed, did not even try.

But now where? When Iraq has the only popularly elected government in the Arab world why should Arabs participate in trying to overthrow it? The answer, of course, in the case of Al Qaeda and the Syrian-backed baathists is that they want democracy in the Arab world to fail. But this position, for obvious reasons, has almost no support in Iraq.

Terrorism sponsored mostly by Syria and Iran will continue, but will gradually be defeated by the Iraqi army and its allies. And neither Syria nor Iran can assume they are immune from a response.

If Syria can sponsor terrorists seeking to overthrow the democratic government of Iraq, why can't the Iraqi government give support to Syrians seeking, legitimately, to overthrow the despotism which oppresses them?

Within a year or two, this will be the principal question of insurgency in the middle east.

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