Iraq poll:

A lot could go wrong with Iraq’s elections on Jan. 30. But one fear that seems misplaced is that the two main Iraqi Shiite parties, the Dawa Islamic Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, would take orders from Iran’s radical Shiite ayatollahs, imposing pro-Iranian policies on Baghdad.

It’s true that both of these parties have historical links with Iran. But their politics and constituencies are now rooted in Iraq. If they come to power with support from people, their independence from Iran seems assured. That independence will be harder to preserve if the January vote splits Iraq between a self-governing but weak Shiite and Kurdish zone and a Sunni region with violent insurrection.

The real threat looming over the elections comes from the continuing alienation of most of Iraq’s Sunni minority. This extends well beyond the terrorists trying to intimidate election workers or the die-hards unable to accept majority rule. The military actions in Falluja and Mosul this fall seem to have deepened it, and it now embraces almost the entire Sunni community. The January poll can begin to address this problem only if large portions of the Sunni population accept its results.

Otherwise, the gravest dangers facing Iraq after January 30 will not come from Iran’s plotting ayatollahs, but from Iraq’s own disaffected Sunnis. — The New York Times