Al-Hakim, UIA back Jaafari
Sectarian Killings Raise Tension
The killing, execution-style, of some 25 Shiite workers in a brick-making plant in Nahrawan by Sunni Arab guerrillas caused renewed ethnic tensions on Friday.
Al-Zaman reports that [Ar.] Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the United Iraqi Alliance [Shiite religious parties] informed Iraqi president Jalal Talabani and the Iraqi Accord Front and its allies that the UIA is standing by its choice of Ibrahim Jaafari as candidate for prime minister. The statement came in response to letters sent to al-Hakim by Talabani, Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi Accord Front, and Salih Mutlak of the National Dialogue Council (neo-Baathist). Jointly all of these have 135 seats in parliament, so that they could, if they united, theoretically form a ruling coalition in parliament (which requires 138 seats). In fact, al-Hakim is banking on their inability effectively to stay together as a coalition.
Al-Hakim’s response came after the United Iraqi Alliance members of parliament, who number 130, met and decided to retain Jaafari.
Mahmud Osman, an independent Kurdish member of parliament, responded that the the anti-Jaafari coalition of Kurds, Sunni Arabs and secular Shiites was now free to form a coalition and to name its own prime minister. He said he was broaching the possibility theoretically, and it has not yet been studied by the anti-Jaafari forces.
Osman seems to be under the impression that they have the votes to choose a president by a 2/3s majority without needing the Shiite party as a partner. That simply is not true. Dozens of Shiite MPs would have to defect for this to happen.
Moreover, the constitution gives first right to form a government to the list that won the largest number of seats in parliament. Since the Kurds, Sunnis and secular Shiites did not run as a unified list, they cannot now turn around and maintain that they fit that description.
Communist Party of Iraq leader Hamid Majid Musa said that the UIA refusal to reconsider the Jaafari nomination would provoke a political crisis.
Al-Zaman carried a Reuters piece quoting Iraqi observers who claimed that if the new parliament did not meet by March 12, a provision of the Transitional Administrative Law–under which Iraq is still functioning until the new constitution is formally adopted by parliament– will have been contravened.
Al-Zaman says that Friday prayer preachers called for national unity from their pulpits yesterday.
It carried an AFP article quoting Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi of the Association of Muslim Scholars [hard line Sunni] as saying that if Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr did not turn his Mahdi Army militia into a purely political group, he would lose all the Arab support he had gained during his recent travels abroad.
Bertus Hendriks explains clearly and concisely the current impasse in the formation of an Iraqi government, given American, Kurdish and Sunni Arab opposition to Ibrahim Jaafari as prime minister.
Abbas Kadhim , an Iraqi analyst, reflects on the Samarra atrocity and subsequent events.