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Iraq names its leader
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


February 13, 2006

Shortly after winning a vote that makes him a certainty to be Iraq's prime minister under the new constitution, Ibrahim al-Jaafari did not sound like the gung-ho, take-charge type the job seems to call for.

"The smile on my lips would have been wider if I were excused of this responsibility," he said. And what a responsibility. The nation, which still cannot reliably pump oil or generate electricity, is wracked by bombings, kidnappings, assassinations, sabotage, credible allegations of death squads operating out of the Interior Ministry - and, oh yes, a spreading number of bird-flu cases.

And al-Jaafari hardly has a mandate. He won the endorsement of the dominant Shiite bloc in parliament by one vote, with the winning margin being provided by a disconcerting source, the volatile, anti-U.S. - he wants us out, now - cleric Moktada al-Sadr, who is believed to be insinuating his private militia into the police and armed forces.

Al-Jaafari must now create a government out of Iraq's wildly competing factions, a government that can govern competently and credibly and impose peace on a country edging perilously close to civil war. It is an open question whether al-Jaafari, 59, soft-spoken, diffident - at least in public - a doctor who spent years in exile in Iran, is forceful enough for the job. He did not particularly distinguish himself as the previous prime minister, although, to be fair, it was an interim post. Now he has a full four-year term.

He will face an immediate test, naming the defense and interior ministers. The minority Sunnis say they must have one of them, and in this they seem to have the backing of the Kurds, Iraq's other critical faction.

The Iraqi government is, in a sense, a U.S. creation, but as it progresses along the path of elections, naming a prime minister and forming a permanent government, our direct influence on that government begins of necessity to wane. The success of the al-Jaafari government is truly in the hands of the Iraqis themselves.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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