Political Maneuvers in Baghdad
The Saudi-backed London daily al-Hayat [Life] [Ar.] argues that the visit (demarche would be more like it) of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her British counterpart Jack Straw to Baghdad is a (succssful) attempt to break up the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance bloc in parliament and to sideline Ibrahim Jaafari. It reports that she assured Jaafari that he is a fine politician, but just isn’t up to heading a government of national unity that requires gaining the trust of a wide cross-section of Iraqis.
While a visibly uncomfortable Rice met with Jaafari, wearing a frosty forced smile eerily reminiscent of the one Margeret Thatcher used to deploy in similar situations, another member of the United Iraqi Alliance, MP Jalal al-Din Saghir, called on Jaafari to step down. Saghir comes from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).
Saghir’s public call comes after that on Saturday of Qasim Dawud. Al-Zaman says that Dawud has just defected to the United Iraqi Alliance from the Iraqi National List of Iyad Allawi, and that SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz has not only welcomed him into the fold but has spoken well of him as a possible minister of the interior. Dawud, an independent technocrat, is not linked to a militia. He served as minister of security in the interim government of Allawi, but developed a good working relationship at that time with MP from SCIRI. But it is difficult to see what good it does al-Hakim to gain one defecter from the Allawi list if he loses 64 disaffected Dawa and Sadrist coalition partners over the sidelining of Jaafari.
Also on Saturday, secular Arab nationalist leader Salih Mutlak [Ar.] of the National Dialogue Council said that Jaafari should not be eligible to be prime minister because the Iraqi constitution specifies that the post must be held by an Iraqi citizen. Jaafari has dual British and Iraqi citizenship, which Mutlak says should disqualify him. Mutlak, who has praised the Baath Party, also condemned Jaafari’s government as “sectarian.” (A member of the United Iraqi Alliance quipped in response that rooting out Baathists from the government was a more urgent matter than worrying about dual citizenship, thus turning the tables on Mutlak.)
But Jaafari says he will fight on to the bitter end. MP Rida Taqi Jawad of SCIRI affirmed to al-Hayat on Sunday that the United Iraqi Alliance has no intention of dropping Jaafari.
Riyad Nuri, a spokesman for young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, told al-Hayat that if Jaafari withdrew, the Sadrist bloc would withdraw from the government and from the United Iraqi Alliance. They have 32 seats at least, and are a major component of the 130-strong coalition.