Kurds, Sunnis Attempting to Dump Jaafari
Violence Leaves 30 Dead
Guerrilla violence killed 30 in Iraq on Wednesday.
The Financial Times says
“bloodshed in central Iraq continued into its third day on Wednesday, with at least 30 killed in bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad and neighboring regions. In the worst of Wednesday’s attacks, 23 people were killed in a car bomb in a mostly-Shia district of Baghdad. Tuesday’s death toll meanwhile was at least 76, feeding fears that the February 21 bombing of a Shia shrine and the subsequent wave of reprisals may produce a sustained surge in political and sectarian killings.”
The Kurdistan Alliance and the Sunni fundamentalist Iraqi Accord Front are attempting to block Ibrahim Jaafari from becoming prime minister. The United Iraqi Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, has the right to nominate the PM, and an internal party vote resulted in Jaafari’s victory. Jaafari is, however, unacceptable to the United States because of his close ties to Iran and his socialist tendencies (he recently expressed admiration for Noam Chomsky and wondered if Noam would come visit Baghdad). The US appears to be working with the Kurds and the Sunnis behind the scenes to make Jaafari’s candidacy collapse. The United Iraqi Alliance has 132 votes in the 275-strong parliament, but 184 are needed to choose a president. It therefore needs partners from either the Kurds or Sunni Arabs or both, and these two can essentially filibuster and prevent the formation of a government unless the UIA goes along with them.
Personally, I think that given the parlous security situation in Iraq, it is absolutely crazy to be playing these political games. In the wake of the destruction of the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra, you want to go to the Shiite community and say, ‘you cannot have your choice of prime minister and there is going to be a tyranny of the minorities’? Oh, that will calm things right down.
There is no guarantee that the United Iraqi Alliance will give the Americans, the Kurds and the Sunnis a candidate who they like better. Apparently the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq cannot muster the 66 votes within the 130-strong UIA that it would need to put in its own candidate, Adil Abdul Mahdi. SCIRI has better relations with the Kurds than does Jaafari’s Da`wa Party (Jaafari was also backed by Muqtada al-Sadr’s faction).
The Kurds and the Americans, who are spear-heading this effort to sideline Jaafari, don’t appear to have considered another possible outcome, which is a hung parliament, leading to new elections and extending the period of political gridlock as security deteriorates further.
Al-Zaman also reports on the attempt to dump Jaafari. It says,
‘A prominent Sunni political source said that the National Accord Front [Sunni Arab religious parties] will not participate in the government if it is decided that Jaafari will lead it. He said, “It is impossible to work with him,” adding, “The Shiites knew this. We had informed them of it. We believe that for them to nominate him again is a sign that they are ignoring us.” He said that the Sunni Arabs just could not work with Jaafari. ‘
The anti-Jaafari forces are still dreaming of a Sunni-Kurd-secular coalition that could outmaneuver the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance. Since it has more than a third of the seats in parliament, however, they could only select a president without the UIA if they managed to get dozens of its members of parliament to desert it and join an assortment of Baathists and Salafis instead. I don’t find this outcome plausible. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has, according to al-Zaman, been intervening behind the scenes to keep the UIA united.
Although earlier the Fadhila or Virtue Party was cited as an element within the UIA that might bolt, taking its 15 seats with it, its leaders appear to have reconsidered. Al-Zaman says that Virtue staged a demonstration in Nasiriyah on Wednesday demanding of the Kurdistan Alliance that it not attempt to sideline the will of the nation (which had made the UIA the biggest bloc).
Al-Zaman/ DPA also report that Prime Minister Jaafari is denying the charges made yesterday by Jalal Talabani that his trip to Ankara was unconstitutional. Jaafari said it was perfectly legal.