Political Editor: The Majalla
on : Wednesday, 16 Jan, 2013
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An Alternative Prime Minister

Ibrahim Al-Jaafari sets his sights on Iraqi Prime Minister Nour Al-Maliki’s throne.

Former Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. Source: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

Former Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. Source: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

ERBIL, Asharq Al-Awsat—The leader of the Shi’a National Iraqi Alliance, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, has recently taken steps with several Iraqi political forces and blocs in order to ease the stagnant political situation in Iraq. The country is going through a serious political crisis due to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s stances against the Kurds and the Sunnis. Al-Jaafari claimed he was attempting to persuade Iraqi leaders to sit down at the negotiating table to solve Iraq’s current problems.

According to a statement issued by his office, Al-Jaafari met with Shaways yesterday; they discussed the current political situation in Iraq. During the meeting, Al-Jaafari stressed the need for national unity and the need to address the outstanding issues between various political parties in the country. Media sources reported that Al-Jaafari proposed the idea of holding a national meeting, at his home and under his auspices, in order to bring together the Iraqi parties and attempt to find satisfactory solutions to the country’s current political crisis. However, a number of key blocs, most notably the Iraqiya bloc and some Shi’ite parties, boycotted the meeting. This ultimately prevented Al-Jaafari from achieving all his aims, one of which allegedly is to put himself forward as an alternative to Al-Maliki, as some Iraqi political and media circles claim. However, a Kurdish leader stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “Al-Jaafari will not be an acceptable alternative to Al-Maliki, because they are of the same mold.”

The Kurdish source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat that Al-Jaafari “hopes to persuade the Kurdish leadership to accept him as an alternative to Al-Maliki, but these leaders previously experienced his rule during the years 2005–2006. They witnessed his negative stances towards the Kurds first and foremost, and likewise towards the Sunnis, and sectarian discord was prevalent during his reign. Thus it would be hard to accept him as an alternative to Al-Maliki.” The sourced added:

Al-Jaafari and Al-Maliki are working in the same vein; they both belong to the Shi’ite alliance, and given the country’s volatile political situation it is of no benefit to simply change positions between two members of the same alliance. During this crisis, Al-Jaafari has fallen under the influence of Al-Maliki. He has lacked the power or strength to discourage Al-Maliki from committing many fatal errors against other political parties, despite the fact that he [Al-Jaafari] is head of the Shi’ite alliance. So we can see that his presence in a ruling position would not change anything.

Meanwhile, a source in the Kurdistan Alliance bloc pointed out that deep differences are prevalent within the Shi’ite bloc today. He claimed there is no longer something that can be called a ‘National Iraqi Alliance,’ but rather there has been a return to what was formally called the ‘Coalition Provisional Authority’ [the transitional government established after the ouster of Saddam Hussein], of which Ahmed Chalabi was a prominent leader. The source claims that neither the Sadrist trend nor the Islamic Supreme Council are in sync with the rest of the current national alliance, and their differences have emerged in public. Therefore, he contended the most appropriate figure to lead the Shi’ite alliance in the future would be Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, who is considered among the rest of the Shi’ites, Sunnis, and Kurds to be one of Iraq’s more moderate and respected political leaders.

Shi’ite–Kurdish relations have reached an unprecedented low after Al-Maliki’s recent confrontations with the Kurds in the disputed areas [between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan]. These confrontations almost led to an open conflict between the Arabs and the Kurds there. However, despite the risk of military confrontation subsiding completely, the crisis is still ongoing. The origin of the problem still exists, represented in Al-Maliki’s insistence in forming the Tigris Operations Command while the Kurdish leadership rejects any move that jeopardizes their control of the disputed areas, as a condition for them signing a normalization agreement with the Iraqi government.

By Sherzad Shekhani

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