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Iraq Report: April 7, 2006

7 April 2006, Volume 9, Number 14

SHI'ITE OPPOSITION TO AL-JA'FARI NOMINATION GROWING. Opposition to Ibrahim al-Ja'fari's nomination to serve another term as prime minister is growing within his own alliance, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reported on April 2. Rumors swirled for weeks over growing opposition to al-Ja'fari's nomination among some factions within the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). Now, it appears that four out of seven factions within the UIA have come out against al-Ja'fari. In a bold move, two high-profile Shi'ite leaders broke the silence and called on al-Ja'fari to step aside in the interest of national unity.

Qasim Dawud, an independent parliamentarian aligned with the UIA, told RFI in an April 2 interview that al-Ja'fari's refusal to step aside is derailing efforts to form a national unity government.

Dawud said talks are underway within the UIA to nominate a new candidate. "I represent a very broad stream within the Alliance that supports this policy [of choosing nominees other than al-Ja'fari]. A number of friends have expressed their attitudes, and I await a clear official stance to be formed in a few coming days. That should lead to a revised choice of a new nominee [instead of al-Ja'fari] who would form the Iraqi cabinet," claimed Dawud.

Shi'ite parliamentarian Jalal al-Din al-Saghir also called on al-Ja'fari to step aside in an April 2 interview with Reuters, saying the nominee to the premiership "ought to secure a national consensus from other lists and also international acceptance."

Islamic Virtue Party member and parliamentarian Hasan al-Shammari said on April 2 that the UIA has formed a committee that will survey the opinions of the parties to the alliance and present a report to the UIA detailing the best way to proceed.

According to Iraqi media reports over the past week, the UIA is considering three options: maintaining its nomination of al-Ja'fari; nominating another candidate; or leaving the nomination of a candidate to the Council of Representatives.

For his part, al-Ja'fari has maintained that he will not cede the nomination. UIA parliamentarian and al-Ja'fari supporter Haidar al-Abadi told Al-Arabiyah television in an April 1 interview that the UIA continues to support the prime minister. "Two days ago, all the blocs comprising the UIA met and unanimously expressed adherence to the mechanism which led to the nomination of Dr. Ibrahim al-Ja'fari for the prime minister's post," said al-Abadi. "These blocs adhere to the nomination and consider al-Ja'fari the UIA's only candidate."

The fact that UIA members have publicly come out against al-Ja'fari after weeks of silence indicates the degree to which support for a new nominee has grown. While the UIA may succeed in tossing out al-Ja'fari's nomination, such a move could have long-term repercussions.

The UIA, which comprises the two main Shi'ite political parties -- the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and al-Ja'fari's Islamic Al-Da'wah Party -- as well as five smaller political factions, fractured under transitional rule, prompting several prominent party members to leave and form their own parties ahead of the parliamentary election in December.

With control over Iraq's first permanent post-Saddam Hussein government at stake, and all that comes with that -- federalism, possible amendments to the constitution, determining the status of Kirkuk, and the status of multinational forces -- al-Ja'fari's supporters within the UIA may defect in protest if the UIA repeals its nomination.

Should al-Ja'fari's Islamic Al-Da'wah Party leave the UIA, he would likely be joined by the supporters of the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and a few independents, which would equal a loss of about 70 seats for the UIA, roughly more than half its current number in parliament.

Should that happen, an alliance comprised of the Kurdistan Coalition List, Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National List, and the Sunni-led Iraqi Accordance Front and five smaller political parties would be left holding a plurality -- and possibly a majority -- in parliament, controlling between 122 and 143 of the 275 seats.

SCIRI, led by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, would fight a breakup of the UIA, as it would weaken the party's ability to influence the political scene. In light of the statements against al-Ja'fari, the damage may already be done. (By Kathleen Ridolfo. Originally published on April 4.)

TWO IRAQI LEGISLATORS COMMENT ON AL-JA'FARI NOMINATION. On April 2, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) spoke with Qasim Dawud, a parliamentary deputy and a member of the independent bloc within the United Iraqi Alliance, about the negotiations to form a new Iraqi government.

RFI: Where do the negotiations on forming a government stand as of now?

Qasim Dawud: For a full 52 days we have not been able to create and form a cabinet that would be ready to assume its basic responsibilities. Therefore, yesterday I addressed an appeal -- something I perceive as an appeal of the Iraqi conscience, an appeal of the children of Iraq -- to the office of the [Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari] that he take into consideration the good of the Iraqi people and of the country and withdraw his nomination in order to open up a place to other candidates because the political process has reached a dead end.

Our Kurdish friends and our friends in the Iraqi Accordance Front have insisted in new messages they sent three days ago on a refusal to deal with the nominee of the United Iraqi Alliance [al-Ja'fari]. But I must clearly say that I represent a very broad stream within the alliance that supports a policy [of choosing a nominee other than al-Ja'fari]. A number of friends have expressed their attitudes, and I await a clear official stance in the next few days. That should lead to a revised choice, a new nominee, who would form the Iraqi cabinet.

RFI: [United Iraqi Alliance spokesman] Jawad al-Maliki claimed in statements yesterday that the whole alliance supports the al-Ja'fari nomination, adding that there is no place in the alliance for anyone who would try to hijack the alliance for personal reasons. How would you analyze these declarations from the official spokesman of the alliance?

Dawud: Indeed, we do support the unity and coherence of the alliance. We must focus on an important thing -- namely, that crises disintegrate instead of uniting. We want to solve this crisis. A solution to the crisis would unite the alliance. But claiming that all stand behind this nomination does not correspond with the truth.

Four blocs, from among the seven blocs that constitute the alliance, will reconsider the issue of the nomination of al-Ja'fari. Attitudes in this regard will become clearer, possibly tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

But declaring that all members of the alliance are united and that only some have attempted to disturb the unity of the alliance is something outdated, with all these accusations, allegations, and so forth.

Iraqi Accordance Front leadership member and member of parliament Khalaf al-Ulayyan confirmed his bloc's refusal to accept Prime Minister al-Ja'fari's nomination in an interview with RFI on April 2.

Khalaf al-Ulayyan: We do not have any objection to the person of al-Ja'fari. Good and warm relations bind us to him, and he is a dear friend to us. But the period during which he led the cabinet was not successful. The period was not distinguished by anything but a quantity of bloodshed and a number of problematic acts that almost led the country into an abyss. Nevertheless, Supreme and Almighty God showed mercy upon us, and we have passed this period. So I do not think he is the man who deserves the leadership for the coming period.

(Translated by Petr Kubalek and Faris Omar. Originally published on April 3.