Thursday, April 28, 2005

Iraq's New Government: A Few Brain Teasers

The government lineup that Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, head of the Daawa Party, presented to the presidency council, was approved today by the Iraqi National Assembly. The government will include members of the main Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions, although it appears that most of the positions went to Shiites, who make up the majority of Iraq's population.

PM Jaafari will also serve as the acting Defense Minister, a post that was coveted by Sunnis and the political coalition of the outgoing prime minister Iyad Allawi. The latter was left out of this new cabinet because he demanded several key posts including deputy premiership and several key minesterial positions (Interior and Defense) and clashed with Jaafari's Shiite coalition on "de-Baathification".

Now that an Iraqi government has been formed, I would like to point out a few interesting things that may or may not have made the news coverage. The news media has already emphasized the democratic process that is a work in progress in Iraq.

  • The current PM, Ibrahim Al Jaafari, is the head of the Daawa Party, an Islamist organization founded in 1957 by Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr . The Daawa party was accused of terrorist activity including a series of bombings in Kuwait targeting the US and French embassies in the early 1980s.

  • Muqtada al-Sadr is the nephew of the founder of Daawa party, the party of the new Iraqi PM. For those of you who do not know Muqtada Al-Sadr, he is the Shiite cleric who opposes U.S. presence in Iraq and who led a bloody uprising against US troops in southern Iraq last year. He commands an army of Shiite militiamen who call themselves: the Mahdi Army. You can also read a Previous Post I wrote on Muqtada Sadr.

  • Muqtada al-Sadr has declared after the Iraqi election that the only way any Iraqi government would be legitimate is if it asks for the immediate withdrawal of US troops. His supporters marched in the thousands last month calling for US troops to leave Iraq.

  • Ahmad Chalabi will have the Oil Ministry and a Deputy Premiership in this new government - two very powerful posts. If you do not know who Ahmed Chalabi is, then you should read this Post I wrote a couple of months ago. This man is as cunning a politician as they get and his political journey so far is an ivy league case study.

  • Even a visit by Secretary Rumsfeld (and Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick) to Iraq could not buy outgoing PM Allawi his place in the new government. Rumsfeld traveled to Iraq to basically side with Allawi's position regarding former Baatists in Iraq's security and defense establishements. But, Rumsfeld's good friend Chalabi is now the Iraqi Minister of Oil and Deputy PM.

  • Iran wins again. First, the outcome in Afghanistan was favorable to Tehran because Iran supported the northern alliance and the Pashtun factions allied with Hamid Karzai against the Taliban. They win again in Iraq, because they have long supported the shiite factions of southern Iraq (the winning coalition in government today) against Saddam Hussein.

  • The Kurds have the presidency and several key posts in the government. They also command a very well-armed and well-trained militia, the Pesh Merga. It will be interesting to see how this issue is dealt with as the Iraqi assembly debates a new constitution. In addition, the new Kurdish influence in Iraq does not sit well with Turkey, Syria, and Iran, each of which have their own Kurdish populations.

  • ...and last but not least, the US may have just learned a valuable lesson in how to integrate organizations, like Daawa, once viewed as "Islamist/extremist/terrorist" into the political process. Ibrahim Al Jaafari says: "We have a very strong, warm and close relationship with the US...It's not a sign of weakeness to change our world view." Will that lesson play a role in how the US deals with Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine??


Blogger laurenbove said...

::sorry, i had to correct::

Jawad: Honest to God, this whole situation scares the shit out of me. How can this work? Any outsider manufactured government seems doomed to failure to me.

If US backed radio stations are looked at as bullshit, how is the Iraqi government going to be taken seriously by it's people?

I feel it's a powder keg with a lit match nearby.

I'd do just about anything to make this following statement of yours a hard and true fact for all involved.

"Islamist/extremist/terrorist" into the political process. Ibrahim Al Jaafari says: "We have a very strong, warm and close relationship with the US...It's not a sign of weakeness to change our world view."

April 28, 2005

Anonymous nadir said...

War on terrorism my goat .. ahem.
Couple of weeks ago, the state department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985. The statistics raised disturbing questions about administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

Call me crazy, but I really believe that some people in this administration make every effort to hide the facts from the American public to cover their behind, instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion. I understand that we can't expect miracles in couple of years, but I also understand that the brave Americans in uniform deserve better than solving problems with bigger problems. For crying out loud .. Chalabi?!

April 28, 2005

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Likewise, I'm deeply suspicious of such "integration". We'd better have a Plan B, if Plan A blows to smithereens.

April 29, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Hi Lauren: There is some positive here though. This new government in Iraq has a whole lot more legitimacy than the previous govt (installed by UN and US) and the one before it (Bremer's US provisional authority). This new government came out of an election. Yes it was not a perfect election. But I can tell you that it was a lot better than any election held in the Arab World today (with maybe 1 or 2 exceptions). This govt also showed its independence when it rejected the US plea to keep Allawi in govt. The reason why this govt has to be as legitimate and independent as possible is it has the task of carrying Iraq into a new constitution - This will be very very hard by the way - without risking total civil war and chaos. It also has to deal with what will be a strong call for withdrawal of US troops all while showing great progress in terms of reconstruction especially in places like Fallujah and Baghdad. It also has to deal with the insurgency. So, this is just the beginning of a very hard road for Iraq.

Nadir: Nice to have you back bro. Hope you’re feeling much better [Nadir hurt his hand in a construction accident earlier this week]. The Chalabi story is yet to be told. This is major-league politics all around. I think that Chalabi’s political track is one of the most daring political card games ever played in modern history. Beyond the smoking mirrors, I believe there was an incredible strategy behind him that included a lot of deception. The thing we can not ignore is that he managed to get this ministerial post through the political coalition of Ayatollah Sistani. This guy knows how to play the game. It helps that he has a PhD in Mathematics from MIT!!!

April 29, 2005

Blogger Karim said...

"The Daawa party was implicated in several terrorist activities including a series of bombings in Kuwait targeting the US and French embassies in the early 1980s."

I am aware that these allegations are widespread in both arab and western media. However, I am a bit surprized that you seem to take them at face value, and this for the following two reasons. First, while most terrorsit group will either claim responsability or at least condone a given criminal act, to my knowledge the Dawa party has never done so. Secondly, Graham Fuller (a former CIA analyst and now an analyst for the RAND corporation), in his book "The arab shia, the forgotten muslims" (that was written before the war on terrorism started in earnest) mentions these allegations, but dismisses them as there has been no clear link, according to him, between the attacks you mentioned and the Dawa party. I personally think that one should take media reports with a grain of salt, especially during theses times of islamophobia. Media reports coming from the Arab world, predominantly sunni, will also give credence to such allegations so as to discredit the shia. Shia bashing has always been very fashionable in arab media. Now that it has appeared that the shia are going to play a major role in Iraqi politics (thanks to US intervention), when they cannot do it openly, the Arab media will engage in a more subtle game of anti-shia propaganda, of which this is a typical instance.

"how to integrate organizations once viewed as "Islamist/extremist/terrorist" into the political process."

This is a very complicated question, since the organizations you are referring to, although sharing a common islamic reference, differ in many ways in their respective interpretations of islam and in their general worldview. For, how one can compare an organization such as Hezbollah, which is a political party that accepts to play the political game of elections, with an organization like al-Qaeda which views democracy as a heresy? To me, putting all these organizations in the same basket is a little unrealistic, for while US efforts to bring some "moderate" islamists into the political process may be successful, with al-Qaeda and its likes such efforts, in my opinion, will unfortunately lead absolutely nowhere.

April 29, 2005

Blogger Jawad said...

Karim: Thank you for your input. I should have mentioned that the accusations leveled against Dawa are subject to disagreement – and that’s fair, thanks for correcting me. However, this is not about bashing a Shiite organization. This is about what Al Jaafari has said himself: "It's not a sign of weakness to change our world view". That's the most important point I am trying to make. The truth, admitted by Al Jafari himself, is the Dawa Party has been Anti-American until only recently. Al Jaafari said that he himself has not spoken to an American until 2002!! We can't go back and re-write history but we can change the future and that's precisely what Al Jaafari is saying.

As to your reference to Al-Qaeda, notice that I did not mention this terrorist org in my post. I did not for a reason. The reason is that they are a very different criminal enterprise and I agree with you that orgs like that can never be appeased. I do not think comparing Al-Qaeda to Daawa is fair at all. Now, Hizbullah is a fair comparison to Daawa. In fact, many will argue that Daawa served as an inspiring influence for Hizbullah. Both are Shiite political organizations. Hizbullah as you know plays a major political role in Lebanon as the Daawa is playing a major role in the politics of Iraq. Hamas is different because it is not Shiite but rather Sunni. But what it has in common with Hizbullah and Daawa is that it is a major political force in Palestine. So, I think those are fair comparisons. But Al-Qaeda is not.

April 29, 2005


Post a Comment

<< Home