February 27, 2005


Behind the Suit: Politics: He's a doctor, scholar and perhaps Iraq's next leader (Babak Dehghanpisheh, 3/07/05, Newsweek)

Ibrahim Jafari prefers to wear suits. But he could, by Shiite tradition, don the robes and turban of a cleric. His family traces its lineage directly to the Prophet Muhammad. While in exile in London, Jafari, a doctor by training, placed himself under the tutelage of a cleric. His studies earned him the distinguished rank of mujtahid, a person who can make religious rulings. "People know him as a politician," says Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, one of Jafari's aides. "They don't know the depth of his knowledge about the ideology of Islam." That knowledge—and religious commitment—has some Iraqis worried.

After extensive wrangling, the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite-dominated list with a majority of seats in the National Assembly, nominated Jafari as its candidate for prime minister last week. A political deadlock ended after Ahmad Chalabi, a secular Shiite and former Pentagon favorite, dropped out of the race. The mild-mannered Jafari, 58, didn't seem like an obvious choice. Though he served as a vice president in the interim government, his time in office was unremarkable. Now some secular-minded Iraqis are scrutinizing his background. If Jafari gets Iraq's top job, is he going to be moderate or push a conservative religious agenda? "The [alliance] list is obviously influenced by the clerics," says Ghassan Atiyya, director of the Iraqi Foundation for Development and Democracy. "It's hard to tell where Jafari stands. He's good in his pronouncements and his rhetoric, but you can't get ahold of something concrete in what he's saying."

On a few key issues, Jafari has been saying the right things. He has promised to reach out to Sunnis and include them in the political process. He has vowed to crack down on insurgents. And he has won tacit American support by refusing to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. The current prime minister, Ayad Allawi, played up his tough-guy image to get into office. Jafari has used his knack for persuasive dialogue and his affable manner to win over fellow politicians. This approach has worked with ordinary Iraqis, too: a handful of opinion polls last year ranked Jafari as one of the most trusted public figures in the country.

Sistani endorses Jaafari's nomination (Lebanon Daily Star, February 26, 2005)
[I]raq's most influential Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, endorsed Ibrahim al-Jaafari's nomination for prime minister. [...]

Iranian-born Sistani's endorsement came after members of the clergy-backed alliance openly questioned its decision Tuesday to nominate 58-year-old Jaafari, who heads the conservative Islamic Dawa Party, as its candidate for prime minister following Jan. 30 elections. "Ayatollah Sistani blessed the decision taken by the alliance about the prime minister post. He respects and supports what the alliance have decided," Jaafari told reporters after meeting with Sistani in the southern Shiite holy city of Najaf.

He said that Iraq's Sunni Arab minority should be brought into the political process and help draft the country's first Constitution. Bringing the Sunni into the political process could help deflate the insurgency.

Sunni Arabs, who make up about 20 percent of the population, dominated Saddam Hussein's Baath party and largely boycotted the elections. They are believed to make up the core of the insurgency.

"Ayatollah Sistani also advised to take into consideration the uniqueness of the Iraqi issue making it impossible not to integrate other sects and to integrate the Sunni people who were not able to participate in the elections," Jaafari quoted Sistani as saying.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2005 3:23 PM

If one rejects the silly mind/body/soul tricotomy, no difference at all.

Posted by: ghostcat at February 27, 2005 5:50 PM