Jaafari: “Islam to be Source of Legislation”
Against the backdrop of political horse trading, the violence continued in Iraq on Tuesday. AFP reports:
‘ Two soldiers were killed and another wounded when a bomb exploded near the restive Sunni town of Dhuluiyah, north of Baghdad . . . Near the town of Balad, further north, the body of an executed soldier was pulled out of the Tigris river, a police source said . . . Five Iraqis, including a child and a soldier, were also wounded Tuesday in a blast in Abu Farraj, near . . . Tikrit, police said. In Baghdad, a policeman and a member of the civil aviation administration were shot dead late Monday, police said. Three other policemen were also wounded in a mortar attack in the capital. ‘
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Adil Abdul Mahdi, the interim finance minister and representative of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has withdrawn his name for consideration as prime minister, “for the sake of the unity of the alliance.” SCIRI and the al-Dawa Party are the two leading parties in the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of 11 largely Shiite fundamentalist groups.
Al-Dawa campaigned vigorously for the presidency to go to Ibrahim Jaafari, but that so far largely ceremonial post seems likely to go instead to Jalal Talabani of the Kurdish Alliance. Since al-Dawa was denied the presidency, they really wanted the prime ministership. Abdul Mahdi’s candidacy, moreover, may have been damaged by his close working relationship with the Americans and his advocacy of privatizing the petroleum industry. For most of the SCIRI and Dawa politicians, getting control of the state-owned petroleum industry would be an important part of their victory, and they would hardly want a PM who wanted to just give it away to some new economic mafia.
If this speculation turns out to be correct, Jaafari’s victory over Abdul Mahdi may be the second largest Bush defeat after that of interim PM Allawi.
USA Today called Jaafari a “secularist,” by which it apparently means that he wears Western business suits and is married to a physician. He is not a secularist. He is the leader of an old-time revolutionary Shiite party that has for 48 years worked toward an Islamic republic in Iraq. In an AP interview he said,
‘ “Islam should be the official religion of the country, and one of the main sources for legislation, along with other sources that do not harm Muslim sensibilities . . . ‘
Although he also says he is for women’s rights and the right of a woman to be a professional and to hold high political office, many in his party want women’s testimony to be worth half that of a man’s and want girls to inherit half what their brothers do. Islamic law is a dynamic tradition and Jaafari is perfectly entitled to have his own, modernized, version of it. But it is not clear that he can carry his party along with him in this regard. In Iran after the 1979 revolution, Mehdi Bazargan was something of an Islamic modernist, but Khomeini and his hardliners quickly outmaneuvered him. Jaafari isn’t even the leader of the entire Dawa Party, which is divided into factions. Abdul Karim al-Anizi, who is a somewhat shadowy figure, leads the Islamic Dawa Party, which was reputed to have as many seats in the UIA as Jaafari’s branch.
Jaafari is on record opposing the establishment of a specifid timetable for a US military withdrawal from Iraq.
On the other hand, Jaafari wants to bring Muqtada al-Sadr into the new government.
What follows is in part from my own research, and in part from a sketch by an anonymous Iraqi scholar in ash-Sharq al-Awsat
Ibrahim Jaafari was born Ibrahim al-Ushayqir in the Shiite holy city of Karbala in 1947. He joined the Dawa Party in the 1960s as a young man. He went to Mosul for medical school and graduated in 1974, where he pursued Dawa politics. The 1968 Baath coup had made Dawa membership more dangerous. As the 70s went on, the danger increased. In 1979 Khomeini made his Islamic revolution in Iran, which terrified the secular Arab nationalist Baath in Iraq. Khomeini called on Iraq’s Shiites to rise up and ovethrow Saddam. In 1980 Saddam made Dawa party membership a capital crime.
Jaafari fled to Iran in 1980. There he tried to keep the Dawa Party from becoming captive to Iranian political currents, as happened to some other expatriate Iraq parties in Tehran. He also worked with the umbrella group, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, serving on its executive committee. Kadhim al-Haeri and some other clerical leaders of the Dawa Party wanted to dissolve it into Khomeini’s Hizbullah. Jaafari opposed this move.
In the early 1980s, Dawa spun off terrorist “al-Jihad al-Islami” groups in Lebanon and Kuwait, which engaged in terrorism against France and the United States. It is not clear how involved the central Dawa Party leadership was in these shadowy groups, or what Jaafari’s stance was at that time.
In 1989 Jaafari left Tehran for London. Because of London’s open political atmosphere, and the restrictions placed on the Dawa by Tehran, the UK increasingly became the leading site for expatriate Dawa Party political activity and thought. Jaafari emerged as among the more important leaders of the London branch. Whereas the Tehran branch of the Dawa declined to be involved with the Americans in overthrowing Saddam, the London branch of the party enthusiastically joined in. There were, however, several Dawa-derived groups operating in Iraq in the 1990s, whose members risked death every day, and there may be tensions between them and the expatriates.
Jaafari is being challenged by the corrupt expatriate financier and Iranian asset Ahmad Chalabi. One of his supporters alleged that he has the support of 80 of the 140 United Iraqi Alliance members of parliament. This allegation strikes me as completely ridiculous. Chalabi’s INC was rumored only to have 10 seats in the alliance. Chalabi is supposedly the candidate of the more secular-leaning MPs within the alliance, but quite apart from ideology, who would trust Chalabi (who embezzled $300 million from his own bank according to a Jordanian court) with a country, especially an oil state?
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that Massoud Barzani, a major Kurdish leader, is insisting that the oil city of Kirkuk be given to Kurdistan. He also says that Iraq must be a secular state. Jaafari’s UIA must negotiate with the Kurds to form a government, and it seems likely the negotiations will be difficult ones.
The Association of Muslim Scholars, a hardline Sunni group, held a meeting Tuesday at the Umm al-Qura Mosque in Baghdad, where they demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. They were joined by an ex-Baathist and a representative of the nationalist Shiite leader, Muqtada al-Sadr. The groups that boycotted or were excluded from the elections have said that such a timetable is a precondition for their participation in the political process.
Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi welcomed the outcome of the Iraqi elections, which Iran considers legitimate. Kharrazi was clearly pleased that the Shiites of Iraq, denied their rights as the majority for the past 83 years, had finally come to power. He also praised the democratic aspect of the elections. Kharrazi is close to mildly reformist President Muhammad Khatami, and the praise of Iraqi democracy is a dig at the clerical hardliners who hijacked the Iranian electoral process in February 2003 by excluding thousands of reformist candidates from running by wielding an ideological litmus test.