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Latest mess in Iraq

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by

href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngo_Dinh_Diem">Ngô
Đình Diệm Jean Baptiste ran South Vietnam for the US,
assassinated in 1963 when he failed to fight the Vietcong like the Americans wanted.

Grand Ayatollah
Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani
was asked for assistance against Jaafari

Muqtada
al-Sadr
supports Jaafari

The headline on 27 March
said:  Iraq ruling Shi'ites
demand control over security.  The provocation was what the
Iraqi government called " 'cold-blooded' killings by troops of unarmed
people in a mosque."  After
waiting 24 hours
, "US commanders mounted a media offensive to deny
Shiite accounts".  Obviously, the Bush Administration didn't take
very kindly to the suggestion that US troops leave Iraq, because on 29
March, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran the following article:

A U.S.
call for cleric's help
By Nancy A. Youssef and Warren P. Strobel / Inquirer Foreign Staff
U.S. officials sent a message this week to Iraq's senior Shiite cleric
asking that
he help end the impasse over forming a government and strongly implying
that the
prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, should withdraw his candidacy for
reelection,
according to U.S. officials. ... reach out to Grand Ayatollah Ali
al-Husseini al-Sistani
suggested how eager the Bush ...

And Sistani's answer?

Iraq cleric will not read Bush letter
An aide to Sistani said the Shiite was unhappy with what he saw as
American meddling
in Iraqi politics.
By Qassim Abdul-Zahra
Associated Press

BAGHDAD - A hand-delivered letter from President Bush to Iraq's supreme
Shiite spiritual
leader, Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, sits unread and
untranslated, a key
aide to Sistani said yesterday.

The aide - who has never allowed use of his name in news reports,
citing Sistani's
refusal to make any public statements himself - said Sistani had laid
the letter
aside and did not ask for a translation because of increasing
"unhappiness"
over what senior Shiite leaders see as American meddling in Iraqi
attempts to form
their first permanent post-invasion government.

-----

The messenger also was said to have
explained that the letter
reinforced the American
position that Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite, should not
be given a
second term.

-------

The United States is believed to oppose
Jaafari because of his close
ties and strong
backing from radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has a
thousands-strong heavily
armed militia that was responsible for much of the violence that hit
the country
after the Feb. 22 bombing of an important Shiite shrine in Samarra,
north of Baghdad.

A bit of background: Jafaari is serving a single one-year term.  A
second term for him would mean that he serves a full four years. 
Is he legitimately in office?  Was he properly elected?  Juan
Cole
says: "He maintains he was elected fair and square by his
party. Hard to argue with."

So what are the options for the US?  The US obviously doesn't want
to repeat the mistake President Kennedy made with Ngô
Đình Diệm.  Diệm was not performing satisfactorily as South
Vietnams' first President.  Essential problem was "Hồ Chí
Minh and his communist policies were popular, and Diệm was not." 
So when the US ambassador heard that South Vietnamese generals wanted
to overthrow Diệm, no objection was made.  The good news was that
the US could now work with a more pliable government that did what it
was told.  The bad news was that the new government was no more
popular than the old one was.  So, it appears the US is trying to
get his fellow Iraqis to push Jaafari out. 

Iraq
Shi’ites Call For Jaafari to Step Down

“I
call on Jaafari to take a courageous step and set a fine example by
stepping down," Kasim Daoud, a senior member of the independent group
within the Alliance, told Reuters. Other senior Alliance officials,
speaking anonymously, confirmed that four of seven main groups within
the bloc wanted Jaafari to give up the nomination for a second term if,
as is all but certain, he fails to persuade minority Sunni and Kurdish
parties to drop their refusal to serve in a cabinet under him.

Slight problem with that idea, though:

Iraqis
Rally Support for Jaafari

People
rally in Baghdad in support of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Nearly one thousand people marched through the streets of the
predominantly Shi'ite neighbourhood of Kadhimiya on Saturday (April 1)
to show support for Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The protest came
in response to a public call for the first time by leaders of Iraq's
ruling Shi'ite Alliance bloc for Jaafari to step down as prime minister
to break weeks of deadlock over a national unity government. The
protesters, mainly supporters of the radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada
al-Sadr marched through the street chanting slogans in support of
Jaafari. Sadr's support enabled al-Jaafari to win the nomination by a
single vote in a Feb. 12 caucus of Shiites who won election to the new
parliament December 15. The protesters carried two black coffins
representing democracy and election.

And it appears that the US Ambassador is not popular enough to have any
leverage:

US
Ambassador Reportedly Shunned by Iraq Leaders

The
al-Sistani aide said Shiite displeasure with U.S. involvement was so
deep that dignitaries in the holy city of Najaf refused to meet
Khalilzad on Wednesday during ceremonies commemorating the death of the
Prophet Muhammad.

Of course it doesn't help when "At a time when we send Condi to Iraq to
plead with them to uphold their
commitments, the United States is abandoning
our commitment
to build hundreds of primary health care clinics in
the country." 

As of 5
April
, "Condoleezza Rice and Jack Straw pleaded with [Jaafari] and
his rivals for an
immediate agreement to prevent a slide to civil war - Ibrahim Jaafari
insisted he would continue to carry out his duties."  Is Jaafari
now regretting his closeness to Muqtada
al-Sadr?  Not at all:

"It's a great success that the Sadrists
are part of the political
process. Can you imagine what would have happened after Samarra if the
Sadrists were not part of it?" he asked. Indirectly attacking the
Americans, he pointed out that three years ago he was already calling
on Sadrists and Sunnis to be brought into the fold at a time when
Washington was against it.

So it seems the US is stuck dealing with an Iraqi Prime Minister who
doesn't have a whole lot of use for the US troops occupying his
country.