I spent most of today at work reading and calling people to try to get a read on the significance of the Iraqi provincial elections held over the weekend. Of course the results are still preliminary (and leaked for full spin effect), but they seem to indicate that Maliki's Dawa Party did better than expected. Marina Ottaway at the Carnegie Endowment thinks that's a tribute to the power of incumbency, the oldest story in the Arab world. News stories saying it's an endorsement of a strong central government are decidedly premature and likely inaccurate. The sects still voted as sects (though sects with divisions), and there may be trouble brewing in Anbar province if the Anbar Awakening people who made the "surge" look good find themselves locked out of political power through the ballot box. Mosul could be trouble too, and they didn't hold elections in Kirkuk, in contention between Sunni Arabs and Kurds, or the Kurdish north.
It was peaceful and run by the Iraqis, which is encouraging, but stability seems still a long way off. Still, there's no reason to delay U.S. withdrawal. Regiuster editorial day after tomorrow.