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Jaafari Wins Nod to Lead Iraq

Prepared by: Lionel Beehner
February 13, 2006

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Ibrahim al-Jaafari beat Adel Abdel Mahdi by one vote to retain his post as Iraq’s prime minister (ChiTrib). Jaafari, leader of the Shiite Dawa Party, is a divisive figure whose tenure as prime minister since April 2005 has been widely criticized. Most experts had expected Mahdi, a moderate Islamist of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), to be selected for the four-year position.

What does Jaafari’s surprise victory mean for the future of Iraqi politics? His win, as the Christian Science Monitor points out, casts doubt on the ability of Iraqi leaders to form a national-unity government. Jaafari was also the favored candidate of Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose followers won thirty-two of the 130 parliamentary seats of the main Shiite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance. “If [Jaafari] follows what the Sadrists want, we will not be able to have a government of national unity,” Adnan Pachachi, a moderate Sunni and former foreign minister, told the New York Times. This CFR Background Q&A looks ahead at the formation of Iraq’s government while this Q&A examines the various political coalitions vying for positions.

Jaafari has been widely criticized—by Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis alike—for failing to repair Iraq's infrastructure and political institutions, as well as for his lack of charisma and leadership skills, writes the Washington Post's Jim Hoagland. Sunni Arabs blame Jaafari for not preventing Interior Ministry-run death squads from abusing Sunni detainees. Kurds blame Jaafari for his inability to forge a positive relationship with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd expected to retain his post. And U.S. officials are dubious about Jaafari’s support for Islamic law, or sharia. Middle East expert Juan Cole, citing media reports in Al-Zaman, writes in his blog that “Jaafari is more likely to form a government with the fundamentalist Sunni Iraqi Accord Front of Adnan Dulaimi than with the Kurdistan Alliance.” This CFR Background Q&A looks at the role of Kurds in Iraqi politics, while this piece by the Washington Institute’s Jeffrey White examines the role of Sunnis in Iraq’s new government.

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