New York Times: In a shakeup at the top of Iraq’s Shiite power structure, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was expelled from the governing Dawa political party, officials said Saturday.
The New York Times
By ANDREW E. KRAMER
Published: June 8, 2008
BAGHDAD — In a shakeup at the top of Iraq’s Shiite power structure, former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari was expelled from the governing Dawa political party, officials said Saturday.
Dr. Jaafari, a physician who was an Iraqi exile leader for decades before returning in 2003 to serve as prime minister, was expelled for creating a political movement that had opened talks with rivals of Dawa’s leader, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a senior party member, Haider al-Abadi, said in a telephone interview.
Dr. Jaafari had fallen out with Mr. Maliki last year, when the party elected Mr. Maliki secretary general. This spring, he formed his own movement, the National Reform Movement. “He cannot be in Dawa and another organization at the same time,” Mr. Abadi said. He said the party was considering expelling three other members affiliated with Dr. Jaafari, but played down the possibility of wider expulsions.
Still, the shakeup may resonate more widely in Iraqi politics.
It comes at a delicate political moment. Tension among Shiite political leaders — most notably from the military operations that Mr. Maliki has ordered against the cleric and political power broker Moktada al-Sadr — may offer Dr. Jaafari the chance to lure support away from Mr. Maliki. And at the same time, Mr. Maliki is negotiating a long-term security agreement with the United States that is unpopular.
The proposed security agreement would cover the status of American troops in Iraq, control of Iraqi airspace and immunity for security contractors after a United Nations resolution governing American forces in Iraq expires in December.
Mr. Sadr’s followers have staged weekly protests against the deal, ratcheting up the political pressure on Mr. Maliki. Mr. Maliki’s government issued a statement last week opposing aspects of the American proposals.
Opposition to the security pact was also on the agenda as Mr. Maliki flew to Tehran on Saturday for a state visit. The government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, said Mr. Maliki would offer assurances to the Iranians that American bases in Iraq would never be used to support American military operations against Iran, Agence France-Presse reported.
A senior aide to Dr. Jaafari, Abdul Aziz, declined to say whether Dr. Jaafari’s departure was tied to the leadership struggle in Dawa or differing positions on the security agreement. He said Dr. Jaafari was in meetings on Saturday evening and would not be available to comment.
Still, in a sign he may be staking out a more nationalist position, supporters of Mr. Sadr said they had opened talks with the new National Reform Movement.
Ahmed al-Masuadai, a senior member of the political wing of the Sadr movement, said his group had been in talks with Dr. Jaafari on forming an alliance for regional elections this fall with the new bloc.
The Dawa Party has deep roots in Iraq and is known for the repression it suffered under Saddam Hussein. Dr. Jaafari fled Iraq in 1980 as Mr. Hussein began arresting members of his party, and spent much of that decade in Iran. He later headed the British office of the Dawa Party in exile in London until the American invasion in 2003.
In violence on Saturday, two car bombs detonated in Baghdad, killing at least six people. One exploded near the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, killing five people and setting fire to a row of auto repair shops.
Suadad al-Salhy and Tariq Maher contributed reporting.