Will Iraq's next President be Arab again?
There is much talk in Iraq these days about the possible make up of the next Iraqi Government, and one issue which has been given very little attention until now is the identity of Iraq's new President. More talk has been about who will fill the more important position of Prime Minister, as that is the office where the real power lies within post-Saddam Iraq. Now that Ibrahim Jafari seems certain to remain in that position, people are asking whether Jalal Talabani, Iraq's first kurdish President will stay on in the largely symbolic position.
After the meeting earlier this week between Talabani and Abdel Aziz Al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) one of the large Shia parties, it emerged that Hakim endorsed Talabani to remain as President, without consulting first with his counterparts at the UIA, the Shia alliance. It seems that in the next few weeks of wrangling the UIA, as a matter of policy, will seek to have an arab as Iraq's President once more. This is a move aimed at re-affirming Iraq's 'arabness', and more importantly is seen as a way of building bridges with the Arab League. The fact that Iraq's President was a kurd coupled with the fact that many view Iran as dominating Iraqi politics, has left many Iraqis arabs, particularly sunni's, feeling quite threatened. This move will go a long way to addressing those fears and this time around the kurds do not hold the voting power to do much about it. It will also probably lead to a certain degree of trouble in the kurdish controlled north as Talabani will return home to find rival kurdish leader Massoud Barzani sitting comfortably in his seat as the president of Kurdistan. He has had time to consolidate his position while Talabani has been in Baghdad and if Talabani comes home trying to assert himself once more it could cause severe friction between the two.
As far as the Iraq Presidency is concerned, it will almost certainly go to a sunni and Adnan al Dulaimi is one possible choice although perhaps he lacks the statesman-like qualities of someone secular like Adnan Pachachi or even former President Ghazi al Yawer. However these last two have almost completely disappeared off the radar, and if the Iraqis want to use this move to dampen the insugency, then Dulaimi is the favourite choice. He heads one of Iraq's biggest clans, the Dulaim, and has the respect of some sections of the insugency. Should he become President, he could bring many of the legitimate resistors onside, and this could lead to the isolation of the salafi and baathist element of the insurgency.