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Juan Cole: Jaafari Takes lead
by Informed Comment (reposted)
Tuesday Feb 15th, 2005 4:54 PM
Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Jaafari Takes lead

Reuters is reporting that Ibrahim Jaafari is emerging as the frontrunner in the negotiations for prime minister.

Jaafari opposed the US military assault on Fallujah, telling UPI:

' I believe that it is necessary to deal politically with what is happening in Fallujah because it is the best solution to end military confrontation and avoid its dangerous consequences. If we fail in the first attempt, we should try a second and a third time until we achieve the aspired results based on our keenness to establish a new Iraq free of violence and which confronts violence with political solutions. '

Jaafari also slammed the interim Defense Minister, Hazem Shaalan, for trying to roil relations between Iraq and Iran by calling Iran Baghdad's number one enemy. Jaafari said,

' I personally look at Iran as part of the geographical entourage of Iraq and a friendly state which stood by Iraq's side in time of crisis: It harbored Iraqis when Saddam Hussein killed, displaced and harmed many of them. It is a state like all Iraq's other neighbors, which has common interests with us. I look forward to seeing Iraq's relations with Iran and all its other neighboring countries rise to the level of advanced countries. But in return, I expect all neighboring countries to refrain from interfering in our sovereignty like we do not interfere in theirs.

Some are trying to disturb such relations with Iran, although there is a consensus within the Iraqi interim government on the need to improve ties with Iran and all other neighboring countries and to set up a common strategy with them. In case of any interference, we should address that neighbor openly and start a dialogue instead of resorting to a media war. '

My suspicion is that Jaafari is not the free-marketeer that his rival, Adil Abdul Mahdi is. The Dawa has a tradition of thinking about "Islamic economics" that assume a certain amount of state interference in the economy.

Jaafari, given his policies, is probably closer to public opinion in Iraq than Abdul Mahdi, and in that sense, may have more chance of success. Some have complained, however, that he hasn't so far been a very decisive politician.

posted by Juan @ 2/15/2005 11:38:00 AM   

§Al-Jaafari Emerges as Top Contender for Iraqi Premier’s Job
by Arab News (repost) Tuesday Feb 15th, 2005 4:58 PM
BAGHDAD, 16 February 2005 — Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, a physician who lived in London and is a leading figure in a Shiite party that fought Saddam Hussein, has emerged as the top contender for the prime minister’s job after his main rival dropped out.

Ahmad Chalabi, a former Pentagon favorite, was still in the running, however Al-Jaafari seems all but certain to win the approval of the Shiite political alliance that has provisionally won more than half the seats in the new National Assembly.

Al-Jaafari said that if he is confirmed as prime minister, he would first try to stymie the violence that has crippled the country’s recovery from decades of war and hardship.

“The security situation is at the top, as it is a pressing element,” Al-Jaafari said. He also said he would not push for the US and its allies to withdraw their troops from Iraq any time soon.

“Blood is being spilled and the land is under attack,” he said. “How about if we decided to get these troops out of Iraq?” he said, implying that the situation would be much worse than it is now.

Speaking from his home in the US guarded Green Zone in central Baghdad, he was cautious about claiming the prime minister’s post before the election results are even certified. But he acknowledged that recent deals reached between Iraq’s religious parties pointed toward his victory.

“I hear from here and there, but I can’t tell to what extent it is a consensus,” he said. “I feel like some of our brothers are convinced, but it takes time to reach consensus.”

Al-Jaafari is the leader of the Dawa Party, one of the Shiite parties that formed the United Iraqi Alliance. The alliance’s second main candidate, Adel Abdul Mahdi, withdrew from the contest yesterday to avoid any rancorous debate or division within the alliance before they reached the task of governing the country, a spokesman said.

“He withdrew from the alliance candidacy on condition that all 140 members of the alliance are going to approve it,” said Humam Hamoudi, a spokesman for the alliance. “We have two candidates for the alliance, Ahmad Chalabi and Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, but Al-Jaafari is the most likely to be the alliance candidate.” But others were convinced that Chalabi still had a chance. Ali Faisal, from the Shiite Political Council, an umbrella group for38 Shiite political groups said Chalabi has been wooing many in the alliance.

He’s promised to cancel contracts the interim government has already signed, form a strong intelligence service, and drop charges against popular radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr, who led two bloody revolts against US forces and is wanted for the murder of a rival cleric, Faisal said.

If the groups couldn’t agree on a candidate within two days, Faisal said, they would have to conduct an internal election.

Current interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s party came in a distant third and any role he would have in the new government was not yet clear.

Alliance representatives traveled to Najaf yesterday to meet with their religious leaders to discuss the choice for premier.

An aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shiites, said that so far, “official and unofficial delegations arrived in Najaf and left without reaching any agreements.”

They were to return today to continue talks, the aide said on condition of anonymity.

In Sunday’s results, the United Iraqi Alliance scooped 48 percent of the vote for the National Assembly, the Kurdish alliance took 26 percent and Allawi, a secular Shiite, won only 14 percent.

— With input from agencies§ion=0&article=59088&d=16&m=2&y=2005