Wednesday, April 19, 2006

al-Jaafari and the Future of Iraq

Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari is refusing to step aside as the Shiite nominee to lead the Iraqi parliament in its new term. The Iraqi government has been in limbo since the parliamentary elections last December in which the Shiite bloc won the most votes. According to the Iraqi constitution, the largest bloc gets to nominate the prime minister, but as al-Jaafari is unacceptable to the Sunnis and Kurds, and as the Shiites did not win enough seats to govern without a partner, the government cannot be formed.

As I've blogged about before, it is crucial that Iraq create a unity government that is acceptable not just to Shiites, but to the Kurds and the Sunnis as well. If the Sunnis do not believe that their interests can be protected in the political process, then there is no hope for stopping the insurgency and rebuilding the country towards democracy.

Iraq does not yet have a fully functional democracy that is capable of dealing with a crisis like this. It is time for the US and the UK to step in and force al-Jaafari to step down. Such a move may anger the Shiites, and Muqtada al-Sadr (al-Jaafari's main supporter), but the alternative is the failure of the political process. The former is bad but fixable; the latter is unacceptable.

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