Politicians Taking Top Interim Roles in Iraq
Brahimi eventually settled upon a man he reportedly believed was an ideal candidate to be prime minister: Hussain Shahristani, a Shiite Muslim nuclear scientist who spent more than a decade in the Abu Ghraib prison after refusing to work on Hussein's nuclear weapons project. Shahristani is not affiliated with any party and has spent the past year working on humanitarian aid projects. He also is close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the country's most powerful Shiite cleric, whose support is essential to the viability of an interim government.
But Shiite politicians on the council who wanted the prime minister's job for themselves refused to support Shahristani. They suggested to Brahimi that they would oppose the interim government if Shahristani were named prime minister, people familiar with the process said.
Over the course of a few days it became clear to Brahimi that he could not bypass the council, U.N. officials said. Making a clean break from the council would have risked a potentially divisive confrontation, an outcome that he and the U.S. government wanted to avoid, the officials said.
When Shahristani withdrew from consideration, Brahimi's list of candidates able to muster support on the council dwindled to Allawi and two other members, Adel Abdel-Mehdi of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and Ibrahim Jafari of the Dawa party.
There have been differing accounts of the role U.S. officials in Baghdad played in the process. Some people involved in the process said Bremer and White House envoy Robert D. Blackwill supported Shahristani until council members backed away. Others familiar with the negotiations said the U.S. government had been worried that Shahristani was not seasoned enough and not sympathetic enough to American policies, particularly the Bush administration's desire for U.S. forces to have unfettered power in the country after the handover.
With Shahristani out, Bremer and Blackwill urged Brahimi to back Allawi, whose party has long been supported by the CIA, officials involved in the process said. At the same time, Allawi was actively building support for his candidacy among other members of the council.
The process came to a head on Friday, when the council unanimously nominated Allawi to be prime minister. Bremer and Brahimi, who were aware of the council's meeting, subsequently endorsed him.
Emboldened by its success, the council has pushed to select much of the rest of the interim government. Members have demanded that Yawar receive the presidency instead of Pachachi. Yawar, a Sunni tribal leader, is a moderate, but he is regarded by members as more independent and less supportive of American policies. Yawar's tribe, the Shamar, has many Shiite members, and he has the support of most Shiite members on the council.
"Dr. Pachachi represents old Iraq while Sheik Ghazi represents the tribal and Arab values that are important to the people," a senior council official said.
The council's effort to impose its own candidates extended well beyond the presidency. Several members said they wanted the two vice presidential jobs to go to Jafari and Rowsch Schaways of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who is a close associate of council member Massoud Barzani.
Council members also pushed for fellow members to assume three important cabinet posts: Abdel-Mehdi as finance minister, Sameer Shaker Sumaidaie as interior minister and Rajaa Habib Khuzai as health minister, Iraqi politicians said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company