Saturday, I saw a footer on a Fox broadcast "Why the 'real' rally kicks in after the Iraqi elections." If you saw that graphic three years ago, it would have been a joke, since Iraq didn't have meaningful elections. However, the elections in January are critical in moving forward in Iraq and in the battle with al Qaeda and friends.
I didn't hear the broadcast (I was at a restaurant with the audio off) but I assume that it was a financial show and that things would look better in the oil and financial markets if the elections go off fairly smoothly. You know that they won't go off perfectly, since you'll have the problems of reintroducing elections to Iraq, and various hard-cases bombing and shooting up polling places and election HQs, on top of all the little snafus that any election brings even if you've been at it for a while.
However, if the thing runs fairly smoothly, the resulting Iraqi government will have the blessing of both the Iraqi people and most of the rest of the world, which will make the Iraqi militant opposition harder to justify. That makes this piece of news very encouraging.
World leaders have ended a conference on the future of Iraq by declaring support for the 30 January elections.
Interim Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the elections would be held on time whatever the situation.
At the conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the elections were critical for ending the violence.
Among those in Egypt were the Arab League, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the G8 nations and China.
That's just about all the interested players, including all of the UNSC permanent members. The world powers that be may not have liked the way the US handled the occupation, but they seem to be willing to accept the prospective elected Iraqi government.
What will be interesting is how the new government will function. You'll have no faction able to command a majority of the vote, as different religious and regional groupings will make coalition-building a key. The vote's going to be on a proportional-representation basis, so what you might see is a government that is Islamic-flavored but not sharia-based, since it would be hard to get a 50% vote for a hard-core Shia coalition.
I'd guess that a functioning Iraqi democracy would be about as Islamic as the US is Christian (that's open to a lot of interpretation). Even if you have a near-majority of sharia-fans, it would be hard for the Sunni and Shia parties to agree on who would be in charge of such a pan-Islamic sharia, so they'd likely have to settle on an Islamic-flavored secular government.
Folks on the left (or libertarians), remember that the next time you start trotting out the word "theocracy." If the Republicans wanted to establish one, what religion would they be setting up? Christian, yes, but what flavor? Catholics wouldn't like a evangelical Protestant version and you'd have food fights among the various evangelical factions over what the state religion should look like; they disagree on things like baptism, predestination, church polity, et. al.
That's why you're unlike to see a state religion; it's very unlikely to be yours. That's true in the US, and most likely true in Iraq. I'll give a slight caveat in that you could see a hard-core Shia coalition get close enough to 50% where they might be allowed install Shia-style sharia in return for favors for some other factions; that's a long shot, but a plausible one.