This item comes, originally, from Helena Cobban in Gulf 2000 and is dated 5 April 2006
It is now nearly 16 weeks since the elections in Iraq where citizens voted for members of an Assembly with a four-year term that would (1) govern the country, (2) conclude the many outstanding details of the country's Constitution, and (3) perhaps-- but this is certainly an item that falls into any definition of sovereign self-governance-- negotiate the terms on which the US/UK troops in the country would stay or leave it. For 16 weeks, the parliamentarians have been unable to come together and confirm the formation of a government; and in this situation of continuing political uncertainty and the absence of any form of politically accountable governance Iraq has slid ever further into ethnic and sectarian strife, with disastrous longterm consequences for the country and its people.
This is rightly described in most of the global media as a 'political impasse'. But I believe that very few commentators have presented a good, or even internally understandable, explanation of what has been causing it. My judgment is that responsibility for this ongoing impasse lies most clearly with Ambassador Zal Khalilzad and his colleagues in the US and British governments who have been using the power of their countries' military position inside Iraq to try to subvert the results of the December election by pursuing a determined campaign against the nomination of Ibrahim Jaafari as Prime Minister.
Jaafari, we can recall, was nominated on February 12 by the largest political bloc inside the Assembly, the United Iraqi Alliance. Almost immediately thereafter, US officials and their allies intensified their campaign against Jaafari and his strong political allies from the Sadrist trends within the UIA.
This campaign has intensified over the past couple of weeks. What has been its motivation? I would say that the evidence adduced by Rod Nordland in his two significant pieces in the current issue of Newsweek indicates clearly that the main motivation may be Jaafari's reported inention, once his government is installed, to demand a clear timetable for the withdrawal of the occupation troops from Iraq. (Key pieces of evidence there: the comment Khalilzad made to al-Hayat regarding Muqtada Sadr's demand that the US forces leave, and Sadr aide Fatah Sheikh's comment that Jaafari had indeed promised Sadr that he would demand a withdrawal timetable once confirmed as PM.)
But while, in my judgment, it has been the US and its allies that have been the parties most responsible for causing the political 'impasse' in Iraq through their anti-Jaafari machinations, US spinmeisters have been busy trying to convey the exact opposite impression-- that it is Jaafari who is responsible for it because of his stubborn refusal to step down... And of course, as shown by Pres. Bush's letter of last week, the Rice/Straw interventions of this week, and various other reported actions, they have also been very busy trying to persuade UIA members to turn openly against Jaafari.
Under these circumstances, and given the huge weight of US/UK coercive power inside Iraq, it has been notable to me that so far this campaign has succeeded in winning open disavowals of the Jaafari nomination from only 3 of the UIA's 128 parliamentarians. This meager result is all the more significant, given that 63 UIA members had actually voted against the Jaafari nomination when it was decided (by, literally, one vote) back in February. But for now, all UIA parliamentarians except those three have remained either actively or passively supportive of the nomination. Ayatollah Sistani's call for all his followers to remain united as a single political bloc evidently has considerable continuing power.