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One Iraqi Dictator Replaced By A Thousand

Voices from Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's own Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, a major bloc in the 275-seat National Assembly, joined massive Kurdish and Arab Sunni demands for Jaafari to step down because of his failure to curtail increasing sectarian divisions in the country. Copyright AFP Photo/Pool/Sabah Arar
by Sana Abdallah
Amman, Jordan (UPI) Apr 10, 2006
Keeping in line with dark Iraqi humor, a popular Iraqi joke says: "Our one tyrant is gone, but now there are a thousand new dictators."

This joke pretty much sums up the political situation three years after Saddam Hussein's gigantic statue collapsed, or was toppled, in Fardaous Square in Baghdad, ending more than 30 years of the Baath Party rule, yet ushering in today's chaotic conditions.

Three years after Saddam's regime was toppled, Iraqis complain their new rulers, or new dictators, have done little to put the country back on its feet after the U.S.-British occupation forces swept away much of the state's institutions.

Other than Iraq becoming fertile ground for terrorists, armed gangs, sectarian strife and international intelligence operators, the new rulers' inability to agree on the formation of a government four months after elections leaves little hope for the Iraqis to rebuild their state.

The country's political leaders have been bickering for weeks over who assumes what ministry and whether outgoing Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari should maintain his top position or step down.

This man's candidacy for the premiership has become the prime obstacle in the consultations to form the first elected, four-year-term government in post-Saddam Iraq.

Voices from his own Shiite United Iraqi Alliance, a major bloc in the 275-seat National Assembly, joined massive Kurdish and Arab Sunni demands for Jaafari to step down because of his failure to curtail increasing sectarian divisions in the country.

Iraq's Sunni authority, the Islamic Scholars Association, recently claimed that 40,000 Sunnis have been killed over the past year under Jaafari's reign and that he cannot head the new government if sectarian rifts are to be closed to avert an all-out civil war.

Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi from Jaafari's own alliance entered the scene to say he was working to take the premiership, claiming that Jaafari did not have a complete majority since the vice president lost on a single vote in an election with two blank ballots.

But Jaafari, claiming democratic values, refuses to listen to his allies and foes as he declines to quit, insisting that only Parliament has the right to vote him out of office.

He said the decision for his premiership was reached by a "democratic mechanism and I stand with it. We have to protect democracy in Iraq and it is democracy which should decide who leads Iraq...We have to respect our Iraqi people."

However, there has to be a government first if Parliament is to vote on its members.

Analysts say Jaafari's UIA wanted to avoid another political crisis by resolving the question of the premiership before the Cabinet formation and parliamentary confidence vote after other blocs outnumbering the UIA disapproved his nomination.

Even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her British counterpart Jack Straw, whose countries have the largest number of foreign troops in Iraq, paid a surprise visit to Baghdad last week to persuade the Iraqi leaders to hurry up and form a government.

A commentary in the English-language Jordan Times daily said Rice and Straw's talks with Iraqi leaders last week was "strange history in the making: Western officials who invaded a country, wiped out its mechanisms of order, unleashed pent-up ethnic furies, and indirectly rule it with their military divisions are advising the natives to speed up their grasp of democracy; compress into two years the political modernization process that Great Britain and the United States themselves required over half a millennium to refine, from the Magna Carta to the American revolution."

Iranian officials, highly influential in the country's Shiite politics, are also said to be persuading their allies in the UIA to quickly choose a prime minister and name a government to fill the enormous political vacuum that is leaving the country open to the daily bombings and killings.

While Arab analysts frown upon what they see as the U.S., British and Iranian intervention in Iraqi political affairs, saying the Iraqis alone should know what is in the best interests of their people and country, they acknowledge the political players there have been unable to move without that external influence.

Arab commentators complain the politicians who came from exile into their country after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime will not be able to form a government and rebuild Iraq if they continue to live with the exiled mentality and to "take orders from across the borders."

They say while Iraq is under occupation, with various regional and international interests struggling for strategic power in Iraq, it should not mean the Iraqi players involved in the political process should become pawns in the "American-Iranian game," as one Jordanian analyst put it.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi people are caught in a wave of violence and serious threat of an all-out civil war that might make them wish they could return to dealing with one dictator, rather than the thousand new ones clinging on and struggling for power, as indicated in what is supposed to be a joke.

A commentary in the independent Iraqi Az-Zaman daily said the people have "gained nothing over the last three years as the parties compete over how to kill, to marginalize or to kick out the other from politics."

It said the parties only care about alliances and obtaining ministerial posts, rather than the interests of the people, warning that "another generation will vanish amid the political conflicts."

Iraqi politicians, the paper complained, "do not care for the suffering of the people, but only for those who gave them their votes through the elections or those who are forced to demonstrate on their behalf."

Whether Iraq's "thousand new dictators" are seeking government posts for their personal, sectarian, tribal, American, British or Iranian interests, if they don't form a government soon that will usher in a safe and secure Iraq, the Iraqis will indeed wish they could return to the one-dictator rule and be happy to once again erect one statue, not a thousand, in Baghdad's Fardaous Square.

Source: United Press International

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Makassar, Indonesia (AFP) Apr 10, 2006
The World Bank has a role to play in helping Iraq rebuild, its chief Paul Wolfowitz told AFP in an interview Saturday. "The Iraqi people deserve a peaceful, stable country and the World Bank has a contribution to make clearly on the development side," he said.

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