Thursday, April 13, 2006

Iraq's Crisis (5)

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 29 — Facing growing pressure from the Bush administration for him to step down, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of Iraq vigorously asserted his right to stay in office today and warned the Americans against undue interference in Iraq's political process. Mr. Jaafari also defended his recent political alliance with ... Moktada al-Sadr, now the prime minister's most powerful backer, saying in an interview that Mr. Sadr and his thousands-strong militia were a fact of life in Iraq and need to be accepted into mainstream politics.

Mr. Jaafari's victory was narrow; he came out on top by only one vote after getting the support of Mr. Sadr, who controls 32 seats. ...After the secret ballot last month, Sadr politicians said Mr. Jaafari had agreed to meet all their political demands in exchange for their votes. Mr. Sadr has been pushing for control of service ministries like health, transportation and electricity. Mr. Jaafari .. said he had disagreed with L. Paul Bremer III [who] barred Mr. Sadr and some Sunni Arab groups from the Iraqi Governing Council in 2003. (NYT, March 29, 2006, 'Iraq's Premier Asserts His Right to Stay in Office ')

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 31 — ... one of Iraq's leading Shiite clerics demanded Friday that the American ambassador be replaced. The cleric, Ayatollah Muhammad al-Yacoubi, denounced the ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, at a sermon given at the mosques of his followers. The ayatollah said the Americans were attacking the Shiites and wanted to "change the demography of the Iraqi people and weaken the strongest component in Iraq, represented by the followers of Imam Ali."

Ayatollah Yacoubi is the spiritual head of the Fadilah Party, one of the main parties in the Shiite bloc. He is a fundamentalist cleric who has the same religious and political roots as Moktada al-Sadr ... Mr. Sadr supported Mr. Jaafari for prime minister, while the Fadilah Party backed Adel Abdul Mahdi... (NYT, April 1, 2006, 'Senior Shiite Cleric Urges U.S. to Replace Envoy in Iraq')

[Jill] Carroll's release also coincided with a rapprochement between the American Embassy and Sunni Arab political leaders. Some of those Sunni leaders have praised Mr. Khalilzad for openly pressuring Shiite politicians in recent weeks to disband their militias and to be more accommodating to the political aspirations of the Sunnis. It was to a branch office of the Iraqi Islamic Party, one of the leading representatives of conservative Sunni Arabs, that Ms. Carroll was delivered Thursday. The party's leader, Tarik al-Hashemi, has been working closely with Mr. Khalilzad during the fraught negotiations to form a new government.
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Ms. Carroll's ordeal began when she was kidnapped at gunpoint after leaving the offices of Adnan Dulaimi, a prominent Sunni Arab politician. She had gone there to conduct an interview with Mr. Dulaimi, only to find he was unavailable, leading some to suspect she was set up. (NYT, April 1, 2006, Freed Reporter in Recovery in U.S. Zone in Baghdad )

CAMP RIPPER, Iraq, March 30 — Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, who took command of American ground forces in January, tells his troops that the only way they will defeat the insurgency is to do less shooting and more rebuilding. It's a tough sell at this desert base in Anbar Province, where marines recently spent an hour explaining to him that insurgent attacks and intimidation have brought reconstruction work in their area almost to a standstill. ...
"If you're saying you've got to get an area secure before you do any reconstruction, you'll never get any reconstruction done," General Chiarelli finally told the half-dozen officers around a conference table at the regiment's command post. Chiarelli (pronounced ka-RELL-ee) NYT, April 1, 2006, 'Top General in Iraq Aims to Shoot Less, Rebuild More'

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 1 — A senior member of the dominant Shiite bloc called on Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari on Saturday to drop his campaign to keep his post, becoming the first Shiite political leader to publicly break ranks in the debate over Iraq's top executive. ... The dissenting Shiite leader, Kassim Daoud, said a sense of responsibility to end the gridlock had compelled him to speak out.

"We all hope that he will respond because we know that he is a statesman and he will take the country's best interest into consideration," Mr. Daoud, who would be a possible candidate for the post, said Saturday in a brief telephone interview.

The pressure and divisions over Mr. Jaafari has divided the Shiite bloc into two camps. One, led by Mr. Jaafari's [Islamic Dawa] party, has stuck by his nomination. The other, led by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has begun to discuss the possibility of another candidate. Some of the bloc's leaders decided that they would give him a few days to try to sway the Sunni Arabs, the Kurds and the secular blocs in his favor. Failing that, they said, they would begin considering other candidates. (NYT, April 2, 2006, 'Shiite Asks Iraqi Prime Minister Not to Seek Another Term')

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