Iraqi party leader Al-Ja’fari discusses government "flaws", election issue
… He expressed understanding for "the Saudi fears regarding the situation in Iraq," and said: "deep dialogue should be conducted with it to give it the necessary reassurances. Likewise, Iraq should not be turned into a springboard for hurting any neighbouring country and that terrorist organizations such as the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq or the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party should not be given refuge." …
Text of report by London-based newspaper Al-Hayat website on 4 February
[Report on an interview with Ibrahim al-Ja’fari, former Iraqi prime minister and leader of the National Reform Trend; by Uday Hatim in Baghdad. Al-Ja’fari to Al-Hayat: "I Have Reservations on the Government Performance, and Al-Hakim Sought Broad Alliances that the Coalition has not Approved"]
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’fari has criticized the government performance and blamed the leader of the Iraqi Islamic Supreme Council [IISC] for his call to form broad alliances, and said that his endeavour "is a personal viewpoint that does not represent the National Coalition," warning that "such alliances would be dependent on others as the case with the previous coalition." Al-Ja’fari added that he does not reject the post of prime minister but he does not aspire to be in that position, emphasizing that his rejection of the Kurds’ ideas about Kirkuk had prevented the renewal of his term.
In an interview with Al-Hayat, Al-Ja’fari, who leads the National Reform Trend, which is part of the Shi’i Coalition list, said that "the Reform Trend is something in the middle between the religious extremism and the secular extremism," pointing out that "it is not an Islamic trend but it respects religions and does not contradict them, and it absorbs all Iraqi sectors and does not favour any one against the other."
He warned that the political process and the competition in the elections would change into a "conflict," considering "the victims of the attacks on characters will be efficient and honest people," and said that the elections "are important and sensitive because the people have started to be aware, even if little, of their rights and duties."
He admitted that there is a regional and international interference in the elections, and said "the countries have fears and ambitions; therefore, they support the forces they believe are closer to achieving their interests, and this is something that takes place in all world countries," stressing that "this is the most dangerous thing to the political process in spite of my respect for the friendly relations between the political forces and any country on condition that these relations do not change into a process of dependence and that the symbols [of Iraq] do not change into representatives of that country in Iraq." He called on the government to "put restrictions and rules for these relations."
He expressed hope that the Coalition list would win and receive the largest number of parliamentary seats. On the announcement by the Supreme Council, which is the largest component of the Coalition, of the names of its candidates for the post of prime minister, who are Vice President Adil Abd-al-Mahdi and Finance Minister Baqir Jabr al-Zubaydi, he said "this is something that surprised us all."
He said that "this nomination does not represent the Coalition’s viewpoint because it has not taken place in consultation with the parties that form the alliance and it is something premature and no party should present candidates outside the Coalition framework and without agreeing on these candidates." He ruled out the possibility of naming the chairman of the National Coalition or its candidate for the post of prime minister before the next elections, pointing out that "discussion on these two posts and the candidates for the ministries will take place after the election results are announced." He said that "the chairmanship of the Coalition will be for a renewable of either one or two years. Even the prime minister will have his work reviewed every year with the possibility of replacing him if the Coalition decides that he has not succeeded in his task." He added: "I do not think of the post of prime minister and I do not aspire to have it and will not take the initiative to have it, but I may accept it if I find that the people want that, and then I will carry out this task very seriously."
He called for "patience regarding the issue of Kirkuk and not to rush in imposing a solution that may aggravate the problem. He pointed out that "the uniqueness of Kirkuk is in the diversity of its inhabitants and society; therefore, the solutions that are applied to the societies that have one ethnicity should not be applied in this city."
On the most prominent constants he would adopt in case he is chosen as a prime minister, he said that "he is aware that Iraq in 2010 is different from that of 2005, therefore, I will work to correct the mistakes," pointing out that "the first of his concerns will be to deal with the security situation from its roots, raise the standards of living for the citizen, upgrade the levels of services, and adopt programmes to develop the fields of industry, agriculture, oil, and trade, and tackle the crises between Iraq and the regional countries to protect the joint interests."
Al-Ja’fari said the endeavour of Ammar al-Hakim, the Supreme Council leader, to restore the previous alliances with the Kurds and Sunnis "is the Council’s viewpoint alone and not that of the Coalition because we were surprised by what Al-Hakim said about a political front during his visit to Kurdistan." He said, however, that "the Coalition is not against this alliance, but it does not want it to be with one bloc or quarter but with all trends and blocs, which is one of our new constants, and the Coalition wants the alliance to be made after the elections and that it should be based on equal interests and not dependency."
He expressed reservations on "dual alliances such as the old ones that made the previous coalition dependent on others. This is one of our reservations on it because such alliances had changed into dependence," in a hint by him to previous alliances by the Supreme Council with the two Kurdish parties and forming a four-party alliance which included the Supreme Council, Al-Da’wah Party, led by Al-Maliki, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which led to the withdrawal of parties from the previous Shi’i coalition such as Al-Sadr Trend and Al-Fadilah Party.
On how he evaluates the performance of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Al-Ja’fari said "the difficulties and circumstances that faced Al-Maliki are not few, and he paid the price of the governments that resorted to quotas because he has not chosen his ministers." He, however, criticized the government performance and said that "the standard of services is low, and there are clear signs of flaws, remarks, and reservations on the performance. But every experience should be viewed in light of the circumstances surrounding it." He also expressed reservations on some leaders of Al-Da’wah Party, pointing out that "the practices that took place at the party’s congress, the one before the last congress, led me to have huge reservations." Al-Da’wah Party had chosen Al-Maliki secretary general of the party in place of Al-Ja’fari after the latter left the post of prime minister.
He added that "the security apparatuses continue to be penetrated, and this is no secret to anyone. Had it not been so, the terrorist attacks on sensitive areas in the heart of Baghdad would not have been repeated. The government has to conduct investigation with various security commanders of various ranks to diagnose the flaw." He strongly criticized the continued use of explosives detecting devices, which he termed as "failure and defective, to the point that even the manager of the British company that manufactured them has been put under investigation as a result of these devices."
Al-Ja’fari said "the national reconciliation has not achieved anything because the weapon is still brandished in the face of people," and called for "starting dialogue with all those who carry weapons because the reconciliation is with the quarters that carry out armed actions for several reasons, including the presence of foreign forces or the presence of detainees with these forces. These things can be discussed and solutions can be found for them." He said that "no one should be excluded except the one who insists on maintaining his affiliation to the Ba’th Party and who is trying to bring it back to power." He expressed his support for the work of the Commission for Accountability and Justice, but he called for refraining from politicizing it and keeping it as a legal body that takes measures which include all."
On relations with the neighbouring countries, he said that "there is a complex crisis in Iraq’s relations with the various neighbouring countries for which the responsibility is not only that of the government but it is shouldered by the political forces that make painful criticism of this or that country."
He expressed understanding for "the Saudi fears regarding the situation in Iraq," and said: "deep dialogue should be conducted with it to give it the necessary reassurances. Likewise, Iraq should not be turned into a springboard for hurting any neighbouring country and that terrorist organizations such as the Iranian Mojahedin-e Khalq or the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party should not be given refuge." He added: "I rejected the Algiers Agreement when I was on an official visit to Iran in my capacity as the prime minister. I refused to sign a memorandum of understanding that included a paragraph that refers to this agreement. My refusal led to the failure to sign any memorandum."
Al-Hayat website, London – Translated and reported by BBC Monitoring