Saturday, December 24, 2005

The race to become Iraq's next Prime Minister.

What with the UIA looking very likely winners of the December 15th elections, the focus now turns to who will become the next Prime Minister. As was reported here on thursday, incumbent PM Ibrahim Jafari is seeking to remain in Iraq's top job. He will face a challenge from Adel Abdel Mahdi, who is a member of SCIRI, Iraq's most pro-Iran party. The former Maoist, who spent his years in exile in france, is seen by Washington and London as the best hope for Iraq, now that the message has got through that Iyad Allawi's political career is dead. This support from the west may prove to be Mahdi's undoing, as the UIA politburo weighs up his credentials against Jafari's. He has been eager to sign deals with major US oil companies regarding exploration of Iraq's fields, and this is sure to work against him. Also it important to remember that SCIRI is led by Aziz Al-Hakim, and it is almost certain that any Mahdi premiership will mean a lot of decision will be made by Hakim behind the scenes. SCIRI's closeness to Iran will also work against Mahdi, especially as the nationalist Sadrists are now a part of the equation. The Sadrists clashed with SCIRI earlier this year, and Jafari had to reprimant both sides like a teacher would reprimand two school kids scrapping in the play ground.

I personally wonder whether the UIA will indeed give SCIRI the premiership in return for the interior ministry, in the hope of avoiding civil war. Many analysts of Iraq have said that if the country is to move in the right direction, then the Badr Brigades, SCIRI's militia, should be reigned in, and the Interior Ministry be given to a Shia party which doesn't have an over-bearing militia, in other words Dawa (Jafari's party). If the SCIRI lost the Interior Ministry then the only thing that could mollify them would be the Prime Minister's office. They can't have the Defence ministry as the Sunni's look likely to retain that, and swapping the Sunni's to the Interior Ministry is out of the question. The Foreign Ministry is headed by a kurd, Hoshyar Zebari, and he is doing a very good job of it by all acounts. Perhaps SCIRI could be given the Oil Portfolio, although from what i gather Ibrahim Bahr AL-Ulum is the best qualified person for the job.
SCIRI will not settle for any of the smaller ministries, and so this is the only scenario in which I can envisage Mahdi becoming PM. But i honestly don't see Dawa giving up the PM's office in return for the Interior Ministry, and i think that Jafari's standing within the party, as well as his standing amongst the country's leading shia clerics makes him the favourite to win the contest.


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