Powerplay III

Pressure on Jaafari to step down mounts, Mahdi calls for Jaafari to “step aside”; Jaafari’s nomination may go to full parliamentary vote

Aadil Abdul Mahdi, click to enlarge.

Support for current Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s bid to become the next prime minister continues to decline within his own United Iraqi Alliance. Aadil Abdul Mahdi, the current Vice President and SCIRI’s choice for prime minister during the nomination process within the UIA who lost to Jaafari by one vote, has called for Jaafari’s resignation. The BBC reports “After such a time of naming him, not getting approval of others, now even in the UIA there is some rejection, so I think he should step aside,” however Mahdi acknowledges Jaafari may be “willing to go to the parliament…. he will welcome the decision of the parliament.” Mahdi’s call for Jaafari’s resignation follows that of Kasim Daoud and SCIRI’s Jalal al-Deen al-Saghir.

Another member of the UIA, Mohammed Ismail Khazali of the Fadhila party, has called for a full vote in parliament to decide Jaafari’s fate, “The ball is in the court of the alliance who have to take a final decision on Jaafari,” said Khazali, “”I call upon a parliament session to decide on this issue as the alliance has been unable to decide till now.”

Jaafari is resisting the calls for resignation, and his choice to go to parliament is an interesting decision. Jaafari’s rejection by parliament would be seen as a democratic rejection of his candidacy, as majority of the parliament is needed to approve the candidate for prime minister [corrected].

The rejection of Jaafari by full parliament would also refute any claims of back-room dealings within the UIA to sabotage his candidacy. Jaafari could not claim the democratic process was subverted, and, perhaps more importantly, the UIA could be seen as remaining united, particularly if the UIA votes in full to support Jaafari. Jafaari can be defeated by the Sunni, Kurdish and secular Shiite blocks as the UIA has just under 50% of the votes. Groups within SCIRI which oppose Jaafari’s nomination would need to ensure there are enough votes to actually torpedo his nomination.

The down side to this process could be the outright rejection by both Jaafari’s Dawa party and Muqtada al-Sadr, who can bring his militias into the streets and create chaos in the center of Baghdad and the cities of Najaf and Karbala. Iraqi President Talabani is clear the opposition to Jaafari should not be perceived as opposition to Dawa or the UIA; “Our attitude towards Jaafari does not reflect that we are against his Dawa party of the Shi’ite alliance.” Talabani is attempting to split the alliance between Jaafari and Sadr, and isolate any potential Shiite driven violence to that of the Sadr camp.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.


  • Marlin says:

    David Ignatius has what I think is a very good column this morning about the Iraqi political situation. Ignatius is no fan of the Bush administration, so for him to have a succession of ‘glass half full’ articles about the situation in Iraq says a lot to me.
    Khalilzad recounted the items that the Iraqi political factions have agreed on in private negotiations over the past month. On Sunday, the leaders signed off on the last of these planks of a government of national unity. The Iraqis have saved the hardest issue for last — the names of the politicians who will hold the top jobs. That bitter fight will play out over the next several weeks.
    “All the elements of the deal are there, up in the air, and they could come down and click into place,” Kurdish leader Barham Salih told me by telephone from Iraq. “We have come to the real crunch.”
    Let the Iraqis Bargain

  • Don Cox says:

    It should have been decided by a vote in Parliament in the first place. All this haggling in secret is not democratic.
    A Prime Minister must have the support of the Parliament, and if he loses a vote of confidence he must go, or at least call an election. When he goes, the President should suggest another man, who is then put to the vote.

  • hamidreza says:

    It appears as per clause 73.4, the approval of the PM requires only a 50% vote by parliament. It is the position of the President that requires 2/3 approval.
    As I understand it, UIA is holding up the approval of Talebani as the President. The Sunnis, Kurds, seculars, and parts of the UIA are holding up the approval of Jaafari. So a deadlock has developed. SCIRI-Badr in order to vote for Talebani and against Jaafari is probably demanding major concessions.
    They are probably demanding the Interior Ministry and the police forces, assurance that the Iraqi Army will not be used, neither the Americans will act against Badr, the MOI, and veto over any actions against Mahdi, Dawa, Hizbolla, and the Husseyn Brigades (Iranian 5th column). Then they probably are demanding a whole slew of concessions in the south of Iraq, including oil concessions (2/3 of Iraq’s oil is in the south), and limits to Iraqi Army and Intelligence presence and operations in the south. I think SCIRI is the most regional of the UIA parties. They are also close to Iran, and want to see the role of Iran in the south institutionalized to some degree.
    SCIRI is probably also demanding certain number of seats and ability to control and rig the next general election in 2009.
    Khalilzad must be scratching his head, as he plays this complex game of 6-dimensional chess. It may be better to acquiesce with SCIRI at this time, and let Allawi develop the Iraqi Army and intelligence service, and then challenge the Shia Islamists, especially Mahdi, in Baghdad and the south at a later date.
    The sectarian killings, as horrible as they are, have the advantage that it is discrediting the Islamist militias and parties, both the Sunnis (including al-Qaeda), and the Shias. Maybe that is why the reactionary western poststructural left is calling foul and for the past 2 years is complaining about the “downward spiral” in Iraq and the imminence of civil war. Because they sense this sectarian killing is not good for their buddies and comrades in arm, the fascist Islamists of various color, including al-Qaeda.

  • Michael says:

    As bad as things may look to us outsiders. It appears they are all being forced for the first time to sit down at the tables and talk, instead of kill their ways into power.
    The attempt at sectarian violence having been muffled with a punch to Sadr militia.
    America and an adept ambassador acting as facilitators. Regardless of what some say. This is good for all involved especially if there is a break thru.

  • TallDave says:

    Odd that Jaafari would throw this to the other parties in Parliament, who are precisely the reason he has thie problem in the first place.
    It’s like the Dems are having am internal fight over whether Howard Dean or Zell Miller will be President, and Dean has demanded that the Republicans also vote on the issue.

  • TallDave says:

    It was decided by an internal UIA vote.
    The President will not be approved until all the personnel issues are decided.
    I don’t know why you think SCIRI has the whip hand here; it’s their guy Mahdi who’s being put in, so they’re benefitting more than anyone. If anything they’re making concessions. And I very much doubt anyone is negotiating to rig elections.

  • hamidreza says:

    Well, normally the President symbolizing the state is agreed upon, and then the reps sit down trade horses and form the executive cabinet, with the President acting as the arbiter of last resort.
    But here, the Shiites have a veto power over the President and he is factional (ethnic), so they are now trying to see what sort of concessions they can get from Talebani, before approving him.
    The Kurds, Sunnis and seculars also want certain concessions in order to approve Mahdi or the UIA candidate for PM. The Ministry of Defence in charge of the Iraqi Army is something they need. There is talk it would be Allawi or a Sunni in this position, and not a SCIRI shiite, like in the previous government.
    The composition of the Election Commission and the manner that the next election is to be conducted will most probably come up in discussions. In the January elections, the Shiite Islamists, both Badr and Mahdi, received a disproportional number of votes in the southern provinces of Iraq. There was little or none independent monitoring of the voting and counting, and gunmen were rampant at election booths intimidating voters, and telling them how to fill the ballot. Gunmen were asking voters who they will vote for before letting them by. This has been documented, but unfortunately not to the extent that it should have been. I think that the US felt it owed something to Sistani and SCIRI, so it let them get away with this. The result is that there is an impasse now in parliament. A lot of Shiite secular votes essentially ended up with the Islamists.
    I am pretty sure SCIRI and Sadr will demand more of the same for the next elections.

  • TallDave says:

    Yeah, the elections weren’t up to our standards. But democracy a process. They’ll get better over time, just like we did.


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