A senior representative of SCIRI and confidant of Ayatollah Sistani calls for Jaafari to step down
As the political deadlock to form the Iraqi government continues, support for Jaafari within the United Iraqi Alliance continues to wane. Another influential member of the UIA has stepped forward and called for Jaafari’s resignation following United Iraqi Alliance senior member Kasim Daoud’s denouncement of Jaafari’s candidacy. Jalal al-Deen al-Saghir, who according to Reuters “sits on SCIRI’s main leadership council and is said by Shi’ite politicians to be close to top cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” has has publicly opposed Jaafari.
“I call on Jaafari to step down as nominee for prime minister because … the candidate ought to secure a national consensus from other lists and also international acceptance…” [al-Saghir] said he was speaking not for SCIRI but for himself. But he made clear the party’s position was now against Jaafari: “This is just the beginning and the other calls will follow… It has been 50 days and the Alliance has not succeeded in defusing the objections his nomination faced… This has threatened to foster new blocs that would hamper the Alliance’s leadership of the political process.”
al-Saghir’s relationship to Sistani is a strong message, as Sistani is the most respected and revered Shiite cleric in Iraq and the ‘glue’ holding the disparate blocks of the UIA together. While the various Shiite parties are often at odds and have different political agendas, the need to remain united and maintain a Shiite majority in the parliament is the overriding principle for the existence of the UIA. The memories of Saddam loom large in the eyes of the Shiite political parties.
It is clear Sistani has jettisoned support for Jaafari, which all but spells the end of Jaafari’s bid to lead the new government and Sadr’s influence with Jaafari. Sadr has overreached with his threats against SCIRI’s Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim and members of the UIA, as well as the actions of his Mahdi Army militia, and will pay a harsh political price for his actions.
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