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The Iraqi Situation: A Cabinet at Last, But... PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 02 May 2005 12:57
I have always insisted that what we are commonly told about the Iraqi situation by some of the American officials, the pundits of the media, and the experts from most of the higher centers of wisdom like: Georgetown, The Brooking Institute, and the like.  The news and information given should not be accepted unquestioningly for the very simple reason that the current situation in this country is influenced by a myriad of very complex factors some of which can never be appreciated except by those inside the country, who are directly affected by it.  I have been outside of the country for almost three weeks now and during that short time, I felt so much unconnected with what was happening at home.  I did not write anything which was directly related to those events.  I was worried that by my separation from the field that I would be talking about would sound very much like the statements of people like Mr. Rumsfield or those coming from Fox News, CNN, The Washington Post or the other media giants.

The Iraqis will find that this new government has religious, ethnic, political and geographic variety in addition to the participation of women; now that the process has started we will spare no effort to bring back a smile to children faces.  This is what Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari the Prime Minister designate, told a gathering of reporters on the steps of his official residence on Wednesday April 27, 2005.  He said he has submitted that day a list of 36 names, the members of his proposed cabinet to the chairman of the Presidential Council Mr. Talabani for approval by the three man presidential council.  The Jaafari statement ended a three months stalemate, that followed the January 30th general election in the country, which was hailed at the time as great success.  The stalemate was creating a very serious political vacuum, that was endangering efforts trying to establish a new political structure to replace the one which has been dismantled as a result of the toppling of Saddam and his regime.

On April 27th, during his talk to reporters, Dr. Jaafari did not mention any names of the members of his long awaited cabinet or their portfolios.  He said that it was composed of four vice premiers and included seven women.  He said that tradition and protocol ruled against giving the names before their confirmation by the National Assembly, which would follow their approval by the Presidential Council.

This was the last part in the drama that followed the official declaration of the results of the January election by the Electoral Committee on February 17, 2005.  The elections resulted in a 275-members in the National Assembly, the assembly was entrusted with the two main functions of selecting the Presidential Council and the cabinet.  The assembly was to immediately start tackling the very serious and extremely urgent problems that are facing the country and the selection of the committee which would oversee the writing of a permanent constitution, which should finish the writing of a draft of the constitution and take it back to the assembly to present it to the Iraqi people for approval in a yes or no vote by August 15, 2005.  The whole country was waiting for the National Assembly to convene, but that event was to come no less than a month later on the March 16, 2005 which coincided with 18th anniversary of Saddam’s murderous chemical attack on the Kurdish city of Halabja.  The long awaited meeting of the assembly was just a ceremonial event that resulted in the election of an assembly chairman and two deputies and the swearing in of the deputies after which it adjourned without agreeing on a date for their next meeting.

A few days later, the National Assembly met again and elected the President and his two deputies by the required two thirds majority who named Dr. al-Jaafari as a Prime Minister asked him to form a cabinet in 15 days.  This was expected to be a fairly simple and a straightforward procedure.  Al-Jaafari belonged to the Shiite list which has gained the largest number of assembly members and needed the support of only one of the two other groups which came second and third the Kurds or that of the outgoing Prime Minister Dr. Alawi, but al-Jaafari wanted a national unity government which meant that the Sunnis who have practically boycotted the elections and ended with a handful of representative to be included and offered them one of the vice premierships and six cabinet seats.  This started a series of endless meetings and non-stop consultations, that were characterized by a great deal of wrangling and jockeying for positions that lasted more than a month.  It must have been an extremely difficult exercise, because Dr. Jaafari appeared during his talk with the reporters worn out and very exhausted.  This whole thing was to prove once again a partial solution and a great disappointment, because the Sunnis refused to accept their allotted seats in the cabinet and turned once more the whole process into another period of confusion and indecision.  But the cabinet was approved by the assembly and the Prime Minister promised to fill the vacant portfolios very soon, which were taken over by some of the new minister with the Prime Minister himself taking charge of defense in a caretaker capacity.

The approval of the new cabinet was received with the classical reaction from the two main sides which are involved in the Iraqi drama and the attempts at the creation of the required political structure necessary for the new federal, free, prosperous, and democratic Iraq.  Those who supported Mr. Bush and other members of his cabinet and their friends in the Middle East and inside this country once again hailed it as great success.  The US president talked with the new Prime Minister for 15 minutes, he congratulated him and invited him to Washington.  The Secretary of State, the famous miss Rice was also very happy, but those in opposition welcomed it the next day with a dozen bombed cars and suicidal attacks that left a few Americans and fifty Iraqis dead and about a hundred injured.

The assembling of the new cabinet is certainly a step in the right direction, but once again I think the real measure of its success will be its ability to tackle the very messy situation in the country.  The cabinet faces immense challenges, its members are mostly people who have been outside the country for decades, they have gained a good deal of experience in toppling a government rather than constructing one.  Most of them have very little experience in managing a bureaucracy like the one we have in this country.  The management of the Ministry of Health in Iraq is probably a more difficult job than running the Pentagon.

Dr. Najeeb Hanoudi
Baghdad May 2, 2005
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