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February 20, 2005
Iraqi Leader Urges Allies To Stay The Course

The leader of the winning Islamic party in last month's Iraq elections urged Tony Blair to keep his troops in Iraq while the nascent indigenous security forces grow and train enough to keep its people safe, the London Telegraph reports tonight:

Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who would be the first Shia to be in charge of the Iraqi government, confounded his critics by saying that his country could not maintain order without the help of foreign soldiers.

"Iraq's security services need more personnel, training and equipment," he said yesterday. "We need their presence for a certain time till we can depend on ourselves 100 per cent.

"There are many people still working for Saddam Hussein, terrorists from outside, and there is still the 'mafia'. Blood is spilled. How would it be if the troops left?"

That represents quite a shift for Dr. Jaafari, who ran on a platform that indicated a willingness to push for withdrawal of the occupation forces in Iraq. Nor is that the only shift in the Da'wa leader's politics since the election, as he appears to aim at following outgoing interim PM Ayad Allawi's policies in constructing the first legitimate elected government in Iraq:

The physician, who lived in London for the past 20 years, heads the Da'wa Party, the oldest Islamic political party in Iraq, with close ties to Iran. It was founded with the goal of turning Iraq into a religious state based on Islamic law. In 2003 Dr Jaafari was insisting all foreign troops had to leave Iraq within a year.

But yesterday he said that if elected premier he would be guided by pragmatism not ideology.

"Not all Iraqis are Muslim, not all Muslims are Shia and not all Shia are Islamic," he said. "You have to take into consideration the characteristics of a country and we are very different from Iran."

Again, the pragmatism that democracy requires shows itself in the compromises that Jaafari has put on the table. Jaafari understands that the original Da'wa platform simply will not pass in the new parliament. To win the executive position, he will need to work with both Kurds and Sunnis, neither of which will bite on a Shi'a theocracy, even if Iraqi Shi'ites wanted such a thing, which they emphatically do not.

The main lesson is that Jaafari now has a stake in the future of Iraq and responsibility to his constituency. The dangers that Iraq faces cannot be avoided without relying on the Coalition forces, at least for the foreseeable future. Timetables and ultimata serve no purpose except to give hope to the dead-enders and foreign terrorists who wage war against all but the most radical of Iraq's Muslims. It's good to see that Jaafari understands this, even if many in Britain and America do not.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 20, 2005 10:44 PM

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