Iraq now has 275 bright, beaming members of a new parliament. Flushed with victory, many are already shedding their virtual shells to meet their flesh-and-blood voters – thus running the risk of being obliterated by a suicide bombing or a drive-by shooting. Some parts of the world say this is an exercise in democracy. Other, larger parts of the world fear this is an exercise in blood – and God – for oil. No matter what, the Iraqi elections reality show must and will go on.

The official winners: The Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani-blessed Shi’ite list, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), with 133 seats. The really big (disproportionate) winners – the Kurds, with 71 seats. The (relative) loser – “Saddam without a mustache,” current Premier Iyad Allawi and his Iraqiya list, with 38 seats, despite Allawi spending more than US$4 million in a lavish campaign (nobody knows where the money came from).

The (predictable) losers: The Sunnis, 20% of the population, only 2% of registered voters in crucial Anbar province going to the polls. The Independent Democrats of moderate Sunni Arab nationalist Adnan Pachachi didn’t even get a seat. The Iraqiyyun list of current President Ghazi al-Yawer, a (Sunni) Samar tribal sheikh, received only five seats.

How the (Sunni) Baghdad street sees it: It’s nearly as gloomy as the really bad-news scenario – the UIA getting 140 seats, the Kurds 75-85, and Allawi the rest.

Prime contenders for prime minister: Shi’ites Ibrahim al-Jafaari (Da’wa) and Adel al-Mahdi of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Jafaari, a moderate, is arguably Iraq’s most popular politician. Mahdi, a former Maoist turned ultra-neo-liberal, is very cozy with Washington.

The ultimate Trojan horse: Mahdi, indeed. He’s promised to privatize Iraq’s oil industry. He supervised the signing of many deals with ChevronTexaco, Shell and BP before the elections. And he personally negotiated the usual, one-size-fits-all “austerity package” with the International Monetary Fund.

Key backroom deal to watch: Allawi goes Kurd, supporting the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s Jalal Talabani for president and plotting with the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s Masoud Barzani.

Key wheeler-dealer to watch: Convicted fraudster and former Pentagon darling Ahmad Chalabi. He’s paying his way to become at least a member of the cabinet.

A done deal: By capturing only six more seats from small Shi’ite parties (three from the Sadrists, two from the Organization of Islamic Action and one from the Islamic Da’wa movement, a splinter from Da’wa) the UIA gets a certified majority in parliament.

What the (other) big players say: The powerful Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars still says the elections were unfair and the results doctored. Muqtada al-Sadr wants an Islamic government. And he also wants to see a deadline for the US withdrawal, signed, sealed and delivered: if the new government does not deliver, major Shi’ite lumpenproletariat trouble is inevitable.

What the UIA wants: Power; Sharia law; expand Iraq’s public sector, keep the oil and erase the country’s debt; Americans out only when there’s enough security.

What the Kurds want: The presidency; federalism; Kirkuk, oil included; no Sharia law.

What the Kurds really want: An independent Kurdistan.

What the UIA gets with federalism: All the revenue from Basra’s oilfields (currently everything goes straight to Baghdad).

What the Kurds get with Sharia law: Nothing.

What might suit everybody: A constitution decentralizing power to the provinces; if each province is left alone to decide on adopting Sharia law (as in Nigeria), the Shi’ites get exactly what they want.

What the Washington/Green Zone axis will do: Use the Kurds to block by all means the UIA’s push for Sharia law, thus exasperating Sistani.

What Iran says: Everything is cool. Sistani, the parties in the UIA, even Talabani, everybody enjoys close relations with Iran’s regime.

What the majority of Iraqi voters and non-voters do not want: The privatization of Iraq’s oil industry and 14 Halliburton-built US strategic military bases securing control over Iraq’s oil wells and a Pentagon free-fire zone in the Middle East, ie the Bush administration’s two key strategic objectives.

The other Bush administration strategic objective: A heavy push for federalism with a weak Baghdad and two strong, autonomous regions, thus breaking up the Iraqi state.

The neo-conservatives’ ultimate nightmare: No more Sunni Iraqi resistance, no ethnic and religious tensions, Iraqis drawing force from 6,000 years of history to rebuild a unified, modern Arab nation.

The Diogenes the Cynic scenario: The Najaf ayatollahs get control over Iraqis’ personal lives, ChevronTexaco and company get the oil, the Bush administration gets its 14 “enduring freedom” military bases, Iraqi voters and non-voters get nothing.

Who’s really won big since March 2003: Bechtel, Halliburton, Lockheed-Martin, oilmen, arms dealers, investment firms, anyone connected with the Bush cartel, plus the wily operators who pocketed those $8.8 billion in “reconstruction” funds – the Iraqis’ own money – which simply “disappeared” under the responsibility of former proconsul L Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority.

What the 40,000-strong Sunni resistance is saying now that they’re “back to normal” (a minimum of 70 daily attacks): Victory or death; it ain’t over till the last mujahideen sings.

Match of the day (week, months ahead, regardless of the results): Sunni Iraqi resistance vs US occupation.

And if everything continues to go badly wrong, as it will, who’s to blame: George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz are unanimous: Syria and Iran.

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