Saturday, April 01, 2006

Ibrahim al-Jaafari - Right Person, Wrong Time

I had the honor of meeting Dr. Ibahim al-Jaafari during his first days with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) back in late 2003. He was very friendly, knowledgeable, and religious – he is even a medical doctor. He was extremely popular with Iraqis.

Things have changed – his popularity is waning. By all measures Dr. al-Jaafari is a good man and would probably make a great leader. But he is not what Iraq needs – at least not now. It was a mistake for him and his party to take the lead in a situation that they could not handle.

See this NY Times article about the subject.

You see, since the situation in Iraq started heading south about 6 months after the invasion, Iraq needed a strong leader to get a handle on the situation. Unfortunately, the candidates were few. During Saddam’s “Reign of Terror”, he insured that there were no strong leaders left to oppose him. Saddam even went as far as having arranged assassinations for Iraqis living in other countries. This went on for decades.

The other obstacle is that the majority of Iraqis left standing are branded with the Baath Party stigmata. Case in point – Ayad Alawi. He was considered to be a strong leader. But his ties to the Baath Party caused a great deal of problems for Iraq. Many fault him for allowing former Baathists to sneak back into the government – wreaking havoc on an already unstable government. And they are still there!

Getting back to the current Iraqi government: One major criticism from Iraqis is that criminals and terrorists are being captured and then set free a short while later. The government claims that it does not have the ability to persecute these criminals. I say they better come up with one – and fast. It doesn’t need to be an American-style judge and jury system. It only needs to be adequate to give the criminals a reasonably fair trial. Iraq is a war zone, and as with any war zone, it is not practical to have justice served both completely fairly and swiftly (heck, in America we take our sweet old time and we still screw up more often than we’d like).

Start with the confessed criminals – the hundreds who have gone on Al-Iraqia TV station and confessed their guilt to the entire world. You could argue that they let the smaller fish go so they could catch the bigger fish – but that aint happening either. Then they could move on to those who are caught in the act – an easy way to serve justice.

Iraqi needs a heavy-handed, yet fair, leader to get it through its current crisis. Dr. Ibahim al-Jaafari may be fair, but he just does not have what it takes to get Iraq back in shape.

Sorry al-Jaafari, we love you, but now is not your time.

UPDATE April 21, 2006:
Al-Jaafari has decided not to for another term as Prime Minister. Instead, the main Shiite bloc has chosen Jawad Al-Maliki to be the new Prime Minister.

Though it ends months of deadlock between political parties, it is a sad day for Iraq. The minority Sunni and Kurds have proven that they are not reliable partners and have no respect for majority rule.

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