Jaafari, Ibrahim al-


Jaafari, Ibrahim al-
▪ 2006

      Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a physician who had spent more than 20 years outside Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein, became the country's new prime minister in 2005. Jaafari, the leader of the Islamic Daʿwah Party, had returned to Iraq from the U.K. following the overthrow of Saddam's regime by U.S.-led coalition forces in April 2003. The general elections of January 2005 brought to power the United Iraqi Alliance, a coalition of mainly Shiʿite organizations, in which the Daʿwah was a major player. After weeks of discussion and bargaining among the leading parties of the alliance, Jaafari was selected to be prime minister on April 7. He officially assumed the most powerful post in the Iraqi transitional government on May 3.

      Jaafari was born Ibrahim al-Ashaiqir in 1947 in the holy city of Karbalah in central Iraq. He was an avid reader and poet from his youth, and he became an advocate of conservative religious views. In the mid-1960s he joined the Daʿwah, then an underground movement. After completing high school, he left Karbalah to study medicine in the northern city of Mosul, where he obtained a medical degree in 1974. While in Mosul, he was given responsibility for the recruitment of Daʿwah members in Iraqi universities.

      Returning to Karbalah, Jaafari practiced medicine and remained active in the Daʿwah movement. By 1979 the Daʿwah had become the major Shiʿite underground party in Iraq and posed a serious threat to Hussein's regime. Saddam ruthlessly cracked down, making membership in the party punishable by death. In 1980 Jaafari was forced to escape to Iran, where he continued his anti-Saddam activities. Fearing retaliation against his family in Iraq, he changed his name from Ashaiqir to Jaafari. He moved to London in 1989, where he met leaders of the Iraqi opposition living in exile.

      Before becoming prime minister, Jaafari had been appointed in July 2003 as a member of Iraq's first Governing Council. In June 2004, when sovereignty was handed over to the Iraqis, he became a vice president in the government led by Ayad Allawi. As prime minister, Jaafari expressed support for U.S. forces' remaining in Iraq as long as necessary, and he promised to continue fighting the insurgency. He also made several trips abroad to strengthen Iraqi relations with its neighbours, including Iran, a country with which he maintained close relations. During negotiations over the drafting of Iraq's basic law, Jaafari leaned in the direction of including conservative Islamic influences in the constitution. He was on record as saying that the constitution “should reflect, like a clear mirror, the Iraqi fabric” and that he wanted a government in which “the majority doesn't exclude the other but respects the other.”

Louay Bahry

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Universalium. 2010.

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