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April 20, 2006
Jafaari Blinks

Late word out of Iraq has Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari ending his bid for re-election to the position, paving the way for a national unity government that would signal stability to the Iraqi people:

Under intense domestic and American pressure, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari dropped his bid to retain his job on Thursday, removing a major obstacle to forming a new government during a time of rising sectarian violence.

Leaders from each of Iraq's main factions — Sunni Arab, Shiite and Kurd — called the decision a breakthrough.

"I believe that we will succeed in forming the national unity government the people are waiting for," Adnan Pachachi, the acting speaker of Parliament, said at a news conference at the Convention Center inside the fortified Green Zone.

But while Mr. Jaafari's capitulation after two months of resistance could indeed resolve the stalemate, daunting political challenges lie ahead. Leaders are battling over high-level posts, and a new government will need to revive a moribund civil sector and inspire confidence in public leadership.

Moreover, the likely candidates to replace Mr. Jaafari lack political stature, raising questions about whether they will be any more effective than he in leading a struggling government at a time of widening violence.

The candidate itself will not matter as much as the consensus that puts him into office. The leader of the Kurds has already stated that they will not oppose anyone else nominated by the Shi'ite caucus. That will probably be echoed in less dramatic terms by the Sunnis, meaning that the new PM will at least have a unified assembly as a start.

The New York Times report stresses the importance of American pressure on Jafaari's decision. That cuts both ways; it shows that the Bush administration has worked overtime to resolve the impasse, but it also means that the Iraqi insurgents will still use that as an excuse to claim American control of a supposed puppet regime in Baghdad. However, what this appears to be is an intervention by the ever-present Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who has repeatedly intervened with recalcitrant Shi'ites to push them into negotiated agreements rather than the diktats which have snarled political processes in Iraq.

In any event, Jafaari's capitulation is good news, and hopefully it will break the logjam that has left Iraq without an executive since the January elections.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 20, 2006 11:51 PM

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