Sistani, Talabani and Sunni parties call for an end to the political deadlock for the selection of the Iraqi Prime Minister
Pressure on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari to withdraw his nomination as the United Iraqi Alliance candidate as the next prime minister increases, this time from some very influential quarters. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most respected and influential Shiite religious leader in Iraq, has reluctantly entered the fray. This indicates the gravity of the situation, as Sistani does not wish to become the arbiter of Iraqi politics. Kirk Sowell reports:
…Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has shifted ground and is advising (read: instructing) Iraq’s largest party, the United Iraqi Alliance, to make unspecified concessions to the Sunnis in order to break the political gridlock and help form a government of national unity. The statement was issued through Abdul Mahdi al-Karbala’i, a key Sistani representative. The appeal was supported by Sadr al-Din al-Qabanji, the Imam of the Hussein Fatimid Mosque in Najaf, who urged Shia leaders to heed Sistani’s call forthwith. Although unspecified, this probably means that PM-nominee Ibrahim Jaafari should be replaced by someone more acceptable to the Sunnis. Most ominously for the UIA, Sistani warned that he might withdraw his support for the coalition if its factions failed to agree to concessions necessary for a unity government. [emphasis mine]
Further calls for Jaafari’s resignation come from outside the UIA. President Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Kurdish alliance, has “informed a committee from the Alliance that the Kurdish bloc’s decision to reject Jaafari was final,” and, according to Reuters, “I think the majority of other groups, or all the other groups, are rejecting Dr Jaafari as prime minister.”
Adnan Pachachi, a senior member of Ayad Allawi’s secular Iraqi National Accord and one-time candidate for president, has also called for a break in the stalemate; “”The Iraqi people are impatiently waiting for this issue to be resolved. When the parliament convenes it will be possible to start the steps to form a national unity government.”
TheAssociated Press reports the Sunnis have openly lined up against Jaafari; “‘We are still upholding our previous positions. We have reservations against al-Jaafari and we told them to let us know if they name new candidates,’ said Naseer al-Ani of the Iraqi Islamic Party, part of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front.”
Previously, the calls for Jaafari’s resignation came from different factions within the UIA, including SCIRI’s AbdulMahdi and Jalal al-Deen al-Saghir, Mohammed Ismail Khazali of the Fadhila party, and independent UIA member Kasim Daoud. Now that Sistani has openly withdrawn support, Jaafari’s time is short. Jaafari’s Dawa party must decide if it will support him to the bitter end, in defiance of Sistani’s council and the united factions outside the UIA. Will Jaafari and Sadr stand against Iraq?
Sadr must decide if it will bring the Mahdi Army to the streets of Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala and force a showdown with the U.S. Army and Marines, and the Iraqi Security Forces. Iranian plans to gain influence via Jaafari and Sadr are close to being in shambles. The real questions are will Iran risk an open confrontation with the Coalition and Iraqi government by backing an open insurrection by supporting Sadr’s Mahdi Army and elements of the Badr Brigades said to be under their control, and will they risk losing their most influential and powerful pieces on the Iraqi chess board?
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