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Shiites in Iraq Back Islamist to Be Premier

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Have a look to an NT view.. NT is well known with anto Bush policy for liberating Iraqis..

As a member of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Dr. Jaafari pushed for a more expansive role for Islam in the country's interim constitution. And he was one of several Shiite leaders who initially refused to sign the document, based on his opposition to a provision that would allow a two-thirds majority in three of Iraq's 18 provinces to nullify the constitution when it goes before voters later this year. Dr. Jaafari, whose Shiites represent a 60 percent majority in the country, said the provision was undemocratic.


Indeed there is no relation between the two issues.. Shia majority is an Iraqi Majority. Shia are the only who didn't show absolute unity when it comes to political agenda,.. While Kurds and Other minorities are showing such ethinic focus policy , we found Shia distributed over very wide specrum , from Alawee to Alsader.

The issue of three provices vito is by itself a mechanism to stop majority from forcing their views on minorities.. Nothing to do with being Shia or Sunni, arab or kurds.



Here is the article.





Shiites in Iraq Back Islamist to Be Premier



Published: February 23, 2005



AGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 22 - Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite doctor with an Islamist bent, was chosen Tuesday by the victorious Shiite alliance as its candidate to become Iraq's new prime minister. The decision may well open a period of protracted and rancorous negotiations with a coalition of secular leaders intent on sharply curtailing Dr. Jaafari's powers or blocking him and his clerical-backed coalition.


Ayad Allawi, the current prime minister, and Barham Salih, a Kurdish politician and deputy prime minister, said in separate interviews on Tuesday that without guarantees renouncing sectarianism and embracing Western democratic ideals they were poised to block Dr. Jaafari's nomination and possibly peel off enough members from the Shiite's United Iraqi Alliance to form a government of their own.


Iraq's interim constitution effectively requires a two-thirds majority in the new assembly to choose a prime minister and government, and the Shiite alliance, led by two religious parties with close ties to Iran, won a bare majority in the Jan. 30 election.


Indeed, initial indications were that a potentially polarizing battle was possible, one that could expose the deep fissures in Iraqi society that have been held in check since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Those fissures not only cut across sectarian and ethnic lines but also track a wide disagreement about the nature of the Iraqi state: whether it should be religious or secular, centrally led or governed by a federal system, allied to Iran or anchored in ties to the West.


Dr. Jaafari, 58, won the nomination when his final challenger, Ahmad Chalabi, agreed to withdraw. Mr. Chalabi, a secular, American-educated exile and a one-time favorite of the Bush administration, had been pushing for a secret ballot within the Shiite alliance to determine a candidate for prime minister.


Mr. Chalabi agreed to drop out of the race, after intense pressure from the leaders of the two main wings of the Shiite alliance, Mr. Jaafari's Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or Sciri, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Mr. Chalabi promised to support Dr. Jaafari, and stood with him and several other Shiite leaders at a news conference to announce the decision.


"Unity is more important than winning," Mr. Chalabi said.


If Dr. Jaafari secures the approval of the newly elected national assembly, he would play a central role in the drafting of the country's permanent constitution, which is scheduled to be put before voters later this year. That process is likely to be one of the most contentious political battles in the coming months, with arguments over such questions as the role of Islam in government and the degree of autonomy afforded to minorities such as the Kurds.


Despite the appearance of inevitability, Dr. Jaafari faces a difficult task in persuading a large bloc of mostly secular parties to support him.


If the Kurds and Dr. Allawi do not scuttle Dr. Jaafari's candidacy, they are likely to set a number of stiff conditions for their support, regarding not only the shape of the government but also of the permanent constitution to be drafted this year.


Both the Kurds and Dr. Allawi's group, known as the Iraqi List, are skeptical of the Shiite alliance's pledge that it will not build an Islamic state. Dr. Allawi and senior Kurdish leaders have said they are troubled by what they regard as the undue influence wielded among the Shiite alliance by the government of Iran, which provided sanctuary to the leadership of both the Dawa Party and Sciri during the time of Saddam Hussein.


Dr. Allawi, in the interview on Tuesday, said he intended to press his own candidacy for prime minister, and to explore the possibilities of forming a secular bloc within the assembly that could muster more seats than the alliance.


Under Iraq's interim constitution, agreed to last year, Dr. Jaafari would need the agreement of two-thirds of the 275 members of the national assembly to become prime minister. Holding just a slim majority - 140 seats of 275 - Dr. Jaafari's alliance would almost certainly need the support of the Kurds or Dr. Allawi's group - or both.


At the core of a potential secular coalition, Dr. Allawi said, would be his own group, with 40 seats, and the Kurds, with 75 seats, and possibly some defectors from the United Iraqi Alliance. He noted that the alliance's 140 elected members included many who were not religious Shiites, a group that might be disaffected enough with the choice of Mr. Jaafari to break away.


"What it boils down to is that there are a lot of secular Shiites in the alliance," he said, citing two of the most prominent political figures among the alliance's elected candidates, Mowaffak al-Rubaie, who has been national security adviser in the interim government, and Mr. Chalabi.


In Dr. Jaafari, the Shiite alliance picked a soft-spoken leader whose personal modesty and ties to the Dawa Party, a victim of bloody purges carried out by Mr. Hussein, have made him, at least according to opinion polls, the most popular leader in Iraq. A native of the holy city of Karbala, where his father worked at the Imam Hussein shrine, Dr. Jaafari fled Iraq in 1980, after Mr. Hussein began a campaign of killing and torturing thousands of Dawa members.


Since returning to Iraq after Mr. Hussein was toppled, Dr. Jaafari has cut a cautious political path, tacitly supporting the American presence here but staking out a strongly adversarial position on many key issues.


As a member of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Dr. Jaafari pushed for a more expansive role for Islam in the country's interim constitution. And he was one of several Shiite leaders who initially refused to sign the document, based on his opposition to a provision that would allow a two-thirds majority in three of Iraq's 18 provinces to nullify the constitution when it goes before voters later this year. Dr. Jaafari, whose Shiites represent a 60 percent majority in the country, said the provision was undemocratic.


He eventually signed the interim constitution, but even now says he may lead a move to reverse the provisions he opposed last year. That prospect is viewed with alarm by many groups here, including Kurds, secular parties, and the Americans.


At a news conference after his nomination on Tuesday, Dr. Jaafari, who spent more than 20 years in exile in London and Iran, declared the defeat of the insurgency his first priority. In recent public statements he has made it clear that an Iraqi government cannot accomplish that without the continued support of American troops. He also promised to forge a coalition that included Iraqis of all sects and ethnicities, particularly the Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted nationwide elections last month and who are generating most of the violence against the American-backed government here.


"If need be, we will be strong against the perpetrators of acts of violence, and at the same time we will be lenient with anybody who will work with us," Dr. Jaafari said at the news conference. Flanked by a smiling Mr. Chalabi, he sat before a poster of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the powerful Shiite religious leader under whose guidance the alliance came together.


"I don't believe that anybody, be they Sunnis or any other religious doctrine, will allow these people to destroy our country, and there should be a force that will stop them and put an end to the bloodshed," Dr. Jaafari said.


In the interview with Mr. Salih on Tuesday, he said that neither the Kurds nor Dr. Allawi wanted to personalize the contest over the prime minister's job, but that if the alliance wanted their backing there were "key policy issues to be addressed." Crucially, he said, the alliance leaders would have to make an "absolute commitment" to draft a permanent constitution that would embody the principles of democracy, human rights and a federal system of government, an issue of particular importance to the Kurds.


Mr. Salih made the remarks as he hurried into Dr. Allawi's office in the heavily protected Green Zone, only moments after alliance leaders had appeared on television to confirm Dr. Jaafari's nomination. Mr. Salih, who spent most of the 1990's representing Iraqi Kurds in Washington, said Shiite alliance leaders should understand that the two-thirds rule meant that they could make no progress in forming the new government without the support of groups outside the alliance, mainly the Kurds and Dr. Allawi's group.


"I think we have to send a message," he said. "The parameters are very clear." Asked if the Kurds could join Dr. Allawi in an effort to form a secular bloc within the new assembly that could put forward its own candidate for prime minister - most likely Dr. Allawi, Mr. Salih replied: "Anything is possible. In the past, it used to be Saddam Hussein who made all the decisions for us Iraqis. But now, this is an open game, and you will see shifting alliances."


Mr. Salih hinted that the maneuvering could include efforts to break up the Shiite alliance, luring secularists among the 140 alliance members who won assembly seats to join the Kurds and the Allawi group. "You will see that looking at this in terms of fixed formations is a mistake," he said.


Dr. Allawi predicted that settling the issue of who would lead the new government could take weeks, and hinted that the battle could be bitter. He said he had heard rumors that the alliance leaders had consulted with Iran's ruling ayatollahs, and had been told that Dr. Allawi, a secular Shiite with close ties to the United States that go back at least 15 years, would not be acceptable to Iran as prime minister in the new transitional government. "I have heard that they don't want me," he said. "Why, God knows."


Any suggestion that Iran has played a role in the alliance's choice of prime minister would be politically explosive in Iraq, particularly among the Sunni minority population that was Iraq's traditional ruling group for decades until the overthrow of Mr. Hussein. That, in turn, could re-energize the Sunni-led insurgency that has paralyzed much of the country in the 23 months since the American-led invasion, blighting hopes that key Sunni groups with links to the insurgents - including tribal leaders who have met secretly with Dr. Allawi in recent months - might agree to help curb the insurgency and join the political process.

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