Allawi, Iyad

views updated Jun 08 2018

Iyad Allawi

1945 • Adhamiyah, Iraq

Former prime minister of Iraq

For nearly thirty years Iraq-born Iyad Allawi lived in Great Britain, where he was known for his skills as a neurologist (brain doctor). At the same time, he was an important player in Iraqi underground (secret) politics. In the 1960s Allawi was a leader in the Ba'ath Party, a coalition of Arabic groups that worked to establish unity among Arab nations. Disillusioned by the direction the Ba'ath Party began to take, and especially distrustful of Ba'athist Saddam Hussein (1937–), who rose to power in 1979, Allawi defected and formed his own group, the Iraqi National Accord (INA), in 1990. In 2003, when the Hussein government was toppled, Allawi returned to Iraq to help rebuild his country. He served as part of the Iraqi Governing Council, which was established to temporarily run the war-torn nation. In June 2004, Allawi was appointed prime minister, a temporary position until the first post-Hussein free elections were held in January 2005. Allawi's ten-month tenure was controversial, with many believing the strong-willed former exile was simply a substitute for the dominating Hussein. On April 7, 2005, Allawi's rocky term ended after members of the newly elected National Assembly chose Ibrahim al-Jaafari (1947–) to be the next prime minister of Iraq.

Young revolutionary

Iyad Allawi was born in 1945 in Adhamiyah, a wealthy district of northwestern Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq. Both of his parents were well educated and came from very powerful families. For example, Allawi's grandfather helped negotiate Iraq's independence from Great Britain when it became an independent state in 1932. Allawi's father, who was a doctor, served as a member of the Iraqi parliament. Both of Allawi's parents were Shia Muslims, members of a branch of Islam that believes that the caliph, or leader of Islam, has to be a direct descendent of Muhammad. Islam is the national religion of Iraq, with 60 percent of the Muslim population following the Shiite tradition; the remaining 40 percent of Muslims belong to the Sunni sect, which believes that the caliph should be elected from among members of Muhammad's tribe.

"I want to see Iraq unified and strong."

Allawi led a sheltered life among the elite of Baghdad, attending the best schools in the country and spending his summer holidays in Europe. His world, however, was upset in 1958 when Abdul Karim Kassem (1914–1963) led a bloody revolution that overthrew the monarchy, or rule, of King Faisal II (1935–1958) of Iraq. Members of the privileged class who had been favored by the monarchy were frequent targets of persecution, and as a result many of Allawi's cousins left the country. Allawi's family, however, remained in Iraq where the young man became active in the Ba'ath Party, which openly opposed the Kassem government. As one of Allawi's relatives told Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker, "The fact that Iyad became a Ba'athist when he did was not all that unusual for an Iraqi boy of his age and class. He became a street fighter, an organizer."

In the mid- to late-1960s Allawi remained active in the Ba'ath Party while he studied medicine at Baghdad University. At the same time he met a young man named Saddam Hussein, a rising leader in the Ba'ath Party. In 1968, when the Ba'aths forcibly took control of the Iraqi government, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (1914–1982), a distant relative of Hussein, assumed the role of president. Saddam Hussein was named vice president, but over the next decade it became apparent that he was the true leader of the country.

Controversial split

In 1971 Allawi took up residence in London, England, although the reason for his move remains a controversy. In interviews Allawi admits that he was integral in facilitating Hussein's brutal rise to power, but he also claims that he quickly distanced himself from the Ba'ath Party once he realized that Hussein was creating a dangerous and dictatorial political climate. Allawi claims to have moved in order to physically separate himself from the party and continue his medical studies. He obtained his master's degree at University College in London and completed his residency (advanced training in a medical specialty) at Guy's Hospital.

Former colleagues of Allawi, however, claim that he moved to London for another reason—to continue to serve the Ba'ath Party in Europe as president of the Iraqi Student Union. On the surface, Allawi's job was to promote the party and to organize Arab students who were attending elite London universities. In addition, he was supposedly tasked with keeping tabs on Arab students, weeding out any enemies of the Hussein regime, and acting as an informant for the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi secret police. Some intelligence officers even claim that Allawi was involved with the assassination of Arab students who openly opposed Iraq's vice president.

Allawi did eventually break ties with the Ba'ath Party in the mid-1970s while in London. At first Hussein attempted to persuade Allawi to rejoin the party. Upon his refusal to rejoin, Allawi became a targeted enemy, and in 1978 Hussein sent an axe-wielding assassin to Allawi's suburban London home. Allawi and his wife barely escaped with their lives, and Allawi spent a better part of the next year recuperating in the hospital.

The Iraq National Accord

While he was recovering, Allawi began to rethink his involvement in politics. As he explained to Jon Lee Anderson, "When I was lying in the hospital, I thought to myself, is it worth it, to continue and to fight Saddam, or is it not? And I decided ultimately my destiny and my country and whatever I stand for required me to fight. On the day I left the hospital, a Thursday, I went to see some of my friends, and I told them, 'We have to consolidate now and we have to work actively to overthrow the regime.'"

Throughout the 1980s Allawi worked hard to organize such a network, making connections with other Arabs in exile as he traveled on business for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Because he was a successful physician, Allawi was employed as a part-time consultant by the UNDP to establish medical training programs in developing countries.

By the end of the decade, Allawi's network extended around the globe and was composed of former military and political leaders who had defected from Iraq. In 1990, boosted by the strength of his numbers, the physician-in-exile formally announced the formation of the Iraq National Accord (INA), an organization that had the sole purpose of toppling the Hussein regime. The INA was further strengthened by the support of several international bodies, including the British intelligence agency, M.I.6, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Both organizations shared the same goal as Allawi: to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

According to Anderson, the relationship between M.I.6 and the INA was particularly profitable for both parties: "For the British, Allawi was a powerful Iraqi whose knowledge and contacts offered a potential means of future influence there. For Allawi, the relationship with M.I.6 assured him of continued sanctuary in Britain and provided funds for him to build his own political operation while living in exile." As a result, throughout the 1990s Allawi's intelligence agents stationed in Iraq supplied top-secret information to Great Britain and the United States; in return both countries funneled millions of dollars of aid to the INA.

End of Hussein era

INA intelligence was particularly sought after following the attacks of September 11, 2001, when terrorist hijackers crashed planes into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Although the attacks were never directly linked to Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush (1946–) insisted that Hussein was a threat to the United States. In particular he accused Hussein time and again of concealing weapons of mass destruction. (Weapons of mass destruction are high-powered weapons, including nuclear, biological, and chemical, that can cause enormous amounts of damage.) Although Hussein denied having a weapons' stockpile, President Bush demanded that UN inspectors be allowed in Iraq to look into the situation. In 2002 inspectors visited Iraq and found nothing; however, President Bush was not satisfied. In January 2003, he sent an ultimatum to Hussein: Totally disarm the country or voluntarily leave Iraq. If the demands were not met, the United States would invade.

Even though there was no proof that Hussein was concealing weapons, Great Britain and the United States did have intelligence reports from the INA. An INA insider, who was also an officer in the Iraq army, claimed to have seen boxes of weapons that could be launched by Hussein within forty-five minutes. Although the claim was later found to be false, at the time it fueled enough support for the United States to invade Iraq on March 20, 2003. Three weeks later, Baghdad was captured and the Hussein regime was toppled. On December 13, 2003 Saddam Hussein was captured by U.S. soldiers.

The INA had finally gotten its wish, but rebuilding Iraq in the aftermath of war was not an easy task. As a temporary measure, the United States established the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to serve as an administrative body until June 2004 when power would be transferred to the Iraq government. The first task of the CPA was to identify top Iraqis willing to step into future leadership roles once the transfer took place. In July 2003 the CPA created the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), which was populated by prominent Iraqis, many of whom had been in exile for years. Since Iyad Allawi was a longtime ally, he was one of the first to be appointed to the council. After a nearly thirty-year absence, Allawi returned to Baghdad to serve as the chairman of the IGC's security committee, which was responsible for resurrecting Iraq's army, intelligence services, and police force.

Allawi helps with rocky rebuild

Allawi served as chairman of the IGC until May 2004, when the council unanimously voted him to be Iraq's interim (temporary) prime minister. On June 28, 2004, the CPA officially recognized the government of Iraq. Allawi and thirty-one members of the new governing council were sworn in by Iraqi judges. Some Iraqis were surprised by Allawi's appointment, given his long absence from the country. But the majority saw him as a man whose experience in intelligence and security would be beneficial in the crucial months ahead. And, as one women's rights activist told Luke Harding of the Guardian Unlimited, "[Allawi's] past as a Ba'athist and nationalist gives him credibility with the Arab people."

In his first official speech as prime minister, Allawi promised to bring unity to the country, specifically to negotiate peace among the three major ethnic groups: the Shiites, the Sunnis, and the Kurds (a nomadic people who are Muslim, but not Arabic, and who occupy the northern region of Iraq). After decades of political unrest, however, peace was not forthcoming. Internal tensions increased throughout 2004, and terrorist acts, such as car bombings, became daily occurrences. Allawi was forced to focus attention on forming a well-trained army and strengthening Iraq's security.

In the summer of 2004 Allawi created the General Security Directorate, an agency that was charged with counteracting local terrorist groups. Many members were former agents of Saddam Hussein's secret police. Allawi also reinstated the death penalty for terrorists. There were rumors that Allawi himself had participated in executing seven suspects. In interviews Allawi denied involvement, although he did gain a reputation for being a strict ruler. Members of the press speculated that by perpetuating such rumors Allawi felt he would gain the confidence of his people. One of Allawi's close friends reinforced this belief when he described a conversation he had with the prime minister to Jon Lee Anderson, "[Allawi] said Iraqis only respected brute force, and that was how he had to deal with them."

In November 2004 brute force reached a peak level when Allawi ordered a military strike of Fallujah, a city just west of Baghdad that was supposedly a terrorist center of operations. On November 7, 2004, thousands of U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers stormed the town, and over the next several days house-to-house searches were made to uncover terrorist activity. When the city was finally subdued, over a thousand people had been killed, including many civilians, and nearly ten thousand buildings were destroyed. Terrorist operations, however, continued to spring up in and around Baghdad. In response, Allawi closed down television and radio stations, declared martial (or military) law, and furthered his stronghold on Iraq.

Loses bid for prime minister

Many people wondered if Allawi was just a Saddam Hussein substitute. Andrew Gilligan of The Spectator commented, "There are few signs that Iyad Allawi has been able to break free from the authoritarian habits of the past." However, Allawi also had his defenders, especially in the United States and Great Britain. As Toby Dodge, a British expert on Iraq, explained to Johanna McGeary of Time, "Allawi was dealt a very bad hand: a collapsed state, a nonexistent army, a police force that kept getting shot at and an insurgency that kept getting better. He had no choice but to focus all his energy on subduing the insurgency."

Despite such mixed opinions and the fact that his time as the temporary leader of Iraq was turbulent, Allawi agreed to run for a seat on the Iraq National Assembly during the January 30, 2005, election. The focus of the election was to choose representatives for the 275-member Iraq National Assembly. Members of the assembly would draft Iraq's new constitution to be voted on by Iraqis in October of 2005, and select a president and two vice presidents who would then appoint a prime minister and a cabinet. "Of course I want to be part of the process," he told Jon Anderson. "I'll press on with whatever I believe is right for the country." Allawi waged an all-out campaign blitz, spending millions of dollars to spread his slogan, "A powerful government leads to a safe state."

Iraq's Revolutionary New Prime Minister: Ibrahim al-Jaafari

When Ibrahim al-Jaafari was named prime minister of Iraq in April 2005, it was a revolutionary moment for many reasons. For the first time in history an Arab country would be ruled by a Shiite Muslim. Although the Shiite sect is prominent in Iraq, Shiites are a minority in the rest of the Islamic world. According to Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, al-Jaafari will be watched carefully and how he performs could have a major effect on every Arab nation.

Ibrahim al-Jaafari was born in 1947 in Karbala, a holy Shia city located southwest of the Iraq capital of Baghdad. He came from a very conservative and religious family, and to this day al-Jaafari is a strict follower of Islam. For example, he does not drink, smoke, play cards, or go to the movies. In 1974, al-Jaafari graduated with a medical degree from Mosul University in Baghdad, and although he practiced family medicine he was also active in the Dawa Party, a Shiite political party formed in Iraq in the late 1950s to counter the rising Ba'athist and Communist movements. During the 1970s, when Saddam Hussein and his secular (nonreligious) Sunni regime took power, Hussein ordered a crackdown on Dawaists. Thousands were killed and al-Jaafari, who barely escaped assassination, fled to Iran in 1980. He remained in Iran for nine years, then moved to Great Britain, where he continued to practice medicine and work as a spokesman for the Dawa Party.

In 2003 when the Hussein regime was toppled, al-Jaafari returned to Iraq to join the newly formed Iraqi Governing Council (IGC). He served as the council's first chairman and in 2004 became one of the IGC's two vice presidents. According to a 2004 opinion poll reported by Martin Asser of the BBC al-Jaafari was rated Iraq's most popular politician. The fifty-eight-year-old doctor was responsible for bringing the Dawa Party into the coalition of Shiite parties called the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) and when the UIA took the majority of votes in the January 30, 2005, election he became a front-runner for the post of prime minister. In February 2005, before his nomination was confirmed, al-Jaafari, who is unusually shy and modest, spoke with Rory Carroll of the Guardian Unlimited. "I did not expect to be in this position," he commented to Carroll, "but I will respond if I am called to serve my country."

Since formally taking office in April 2005, many have wondered if al-Jaafari is perhaps too mild-mannered to tackle such a hazardous and high-profile job. He does not have the boisterous and harsh personality of Saddam Hussein or the hard-edged demeanor of former prime minister Iyad Allawi; instead he is soft-spoken and moderate in interviews. Such a switch may prove that Iraq is ready for a change, especially since al-Jaafari's early message was one of inclusion, not of retaliation or revenge. As he told Fareed Zakaria, "Ours will be a civilized and modern agenda that accommodates all Iraqis. We suffered from factional aggression and do not wish to replace it with a new one."

Eight million citizens cast their votes, which represented a 59 percent turnout. A coalition of Shiite parties called the United Iraqi Alliance won the majority of seats in the assembly, taking 48 percent of the vote and filling 140 of the 275 national assembly seats. Allawi's party, the Iraqi List, came in third, with 14 percent.

In February 2005 the United Iraqi Alliance nominated Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a longtime politician and medical doctor like Allawi, to be Iraq's next prime minister. Following the election of the Presidency Council on April 6, 2005, al-Jaafari was named prime minister of Iraq on April 7; he was officially approved by the assembly on April 28. Allawi retained his seat in the national assembly, but it was doubtful that he or his Iraqi National Accord would wield much influence in the future. As Abdul Mahdi, another contender for the post of prime minister, commented to Johanna McGeary, "Allawi faced a terrible mess, and he used his power to give what momentum he could. But he was just a caretaker."

For More Information


Allbritton, Christopher. "A Talk with Iraq's Prime Minister: Iyad Allawi." Time (August 23, 2004): p. 32.

McGeary, Johanna. "The Candidate: Iyad Allawi Says He's the Tough Leader Iraq Needs. Do Voters Believe Him?" Time (January 31, 2005): p. 30.

Zakaria, Fareed. "In Search of the Real New Iraq." Newsweek (May 2, 2005): p. 35.

Web Sites

Anderson, John Lee. "A Man of the Shadows." New Yorker (January 17, 2005). (accessed on August 10, 2005).

Asser, Martin. "Profile: Ibrahim Jaafari." BBC News: World Edition (April 7, 2005). 4268143.stm (accessed on August 10, 2005).

Carroll, Rory. "The Man To Heal Iraq." Guardian Unlimited (UK) (February 24, 2005). 0,,1423829,00.html (accessed on August 10, 2005).

Colwill, Richard. "Profile: Iyad Allawi." Times Online (UK) (May 28, 2004).,,1-1126480,00.html (accessed on August 10, 2005).

Gilligan, Andrew. "The Strongman of Baghdad." The Spectator (UK) (November 13, 2004). spec509b.html (accessed on August 10, 2005).

Harding, Luke. "Liberal Iraqis Welcome 'Compromise' Appointment of Temporary Prime Minister." Guardian Unlimited (UK) (May 29, 2004). 0,3604,1227176,00.html (accessed on August 10, 2005).

Allawi, Iyad

views updated May 29 2018

Iyad Allawi

British-trained neurologist Iyad Allawi (born 1945) came to the attention of the world when he accepted the position of interim prime minister of Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. Allawi, who studied neurology in Great Britain and actually spent about half his life in the United Kingdom, has dual Iraqi and British citizenship. After leaving Iraq as a self-imposed exile in the mid-1970s, he organized the Iraqi National Accord, a group that gained financial support from Great Britain and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), among others. A believer in the future of Iraq, Allawi hoped to bring it out of the hands of the terrorists that plagued it.

Born in 1945, Allawi was born into a well-to-do Shia Muslim merchant family. Shiite Muslims make up two-thirds of Iraq; the remaining third are predominately Sunnis, although a small number of Kurds also occupy the country. Allawi came by his interest in politics through his family, particularly his grandfather, who helped with the negotiations to release Iraq from British control, and his father, a member of the Iraqi parliament. During his college years, while studying medicine in Iraq, Allawi metSaddam Hussein and the two joined the Ba'ath party, which gained prominence in the mid-1960s through its advocacy of secular rather than Muslim governments. Allawi rose quickly in the party's ranks, and was an active supporter of Ba'athist activities even when the new party was banned. Although the initial goals of the Ba'ath party focused on setting up socialist, secular governments in the Middle East, those aims soon changed, particularly after Hussein took control in the early 1970s.

In 1971 Allawi moved to Great Britain, where he continued his medical education. While in school in London, he remained active in Iraqi politics, and was president of the Iraqi Student Union in Europe. Returning to Iraq following graduation, he established a career as a neurologist and also resumed a prominent place in the Ba'ath party. He soon became disillusioned with the party, however, due to the direction in which Hussein was taking it, and he resigned from the party in 1975. Although Hussein pressured Allawi to rejoin the Ba'ath party, Allawi refused and left the country in self-imposed exile. Returning to London, he became a Ba'athist target, and in February of 1978 he was attacked in his home by an assassin Hussein presumably sent after him. Attacking Allawi with an ax in the dead of night while the former Ba'athist was in bed, the assassin then left, believing Allawi to be dead. Although wounded critically in the head, right leg, and chest, Allawi survived the attack and spent almost a year in the hospital recovering.

Dedicated to Toppling Hussein Regime

Even before his release from the hospital following the attack, Allawi started a movement to organize other exiles from the Ba'athist regime into the Iraqi National Accord (INA), his ultimate aim to remove Hussein from power. While primary supporters of the INA were the British government, the organization was also covertly supported by Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the CIA. Allawi's group was made up primarily of former military personnel who had defected from Hussein's dictatorship. The INA gained in power, and in 1996 the group's leadership believed the organization was strong enough to mount a coup against Hussein. Unfortunately, the attempt proved unsuccessful, and the INA leadership was forced to rethink its approach.

Before the INA could initiate a second coup attempt, the United States initiated its War on Terror in response to the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001. Eventually focusing its efforts on the potential threat posed by Hussein due to his link with terrorist organizations, in March of 2003 the Unites States managed to topple Hussein's dictatorship. The U.S. government then set up a Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to work with the Iraqi people to establish an interim government in preparation for bringing about democratic elections. Allawi was invited to sit on the CPA council charged with the selection of an interim prime minister scheduled to take power on June 30, 2004. In May of 2004 the council chose Allawi to be the interim leader. "Even though he is a secular Shiite, Allawi won the tacit approval of the top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani," Alissa J. Rubin and Maggie Farley reported in the Houston Chronicle Online. The journalists deemed this "a crucial step since Shiites are a majority of the population," and noted that the choice of Allawi was also due to the fact that his organization, the INA, "has also worked closely with Kurds and Sunni Muslims."

Allawi's speech to the Iraqi people early in June, 2003, was the first time a leader had spoken to the country since Hussein's fall. The country was still occupied by U.S. troops at this time, and many Iraqis were unhappy with this situation, despite the promise of democratic elections. According to Hamza Hendawi of Newsday Online, Allawi vocally "defended the continued presence of 138,000 U.S. troops and thousands of troops from other nations on Iraqi soil even after the handover of sovereignty. 'The targeting of the multinational forces under the leadership of the United States to force them to leave Iraq would inflict a major disaster on Iraq, especially before the completion of the building of security and military institutions,' " Allawi was quoted as stating.

A Dangerous Undertaking

On June 28, 2004, two days earlier than publically announced, Allawi was sworn in as interim prime minister of Iraq, along with 31 members of an Iraqi governing council. Not surprisingly given the volatility of the region, his new post was considered one of the most dangerous political appointments in the world at the time, and several attempts to kill Allawi would subsequently be made. Most of the world, however, considered Allawi's ascendancy to be a good sign for the future of the country. "He has been a strong supporter of rebuilding an Iraqi army and building up other internal forces to restore order," noted a contributor to ABC News Online. However, some within Iraq expressed suspicion of their new prime minister. Because he had ties with the United States, it was believed that he was merely acting as a puppet leader who would acquiesce to U.S. interests in Iraq's oil resources. Although the U.S. government denied any part in the selection of Allawi, several Iraqis remained skeptical. As Aparisim Ghosh wrote in Time magazine, Sadoun al-Dulame, executive director of the Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, said of the appointment, "Judging by the way he was selected, I don't expect much from him. . . . He will be a puppet for the people who gave him the job."

Set Date for Elections

Allawi's term as interim prime minister of Iraq was not a quiet one. Insurgents unhappy about the new system of government being established continued attacking and bombing sites around the country almost immediately. Vocal and armed opposition groups rose up in key sites around the country, such as Fallujah, where the new Iraqi army—still in its infancy and being trained by foreign groups—alongside U.S. troops, fought deadly battles with the insurgents that had made that city one of their main strongholds. Allawi announced to the country that the interim government would not be cowed by terrorists and would implement new security measures, including resolutions establishing the right to impose martial law or curfews in order to help rid Iraq of insurgent-sponsored violence. Allawi's government also announced the creation of a new counter-terrorist intelligence unit, the General Security Directorate. The insurgents' response was predictable: on July 18, a mere 20 days after Allawi became interim leader of Iraq, a $285,000 reward was offered by Iraqi militants for anyone who could kill him.

One of the first things Allawi and his government established after taking office was the date on which democratic elections would be held; this date was set as January 30, 2005. As a spate of attacks followed this announcement, many groups discussed postponing the elections. When Allawi visited the United States in September of 2004 to meet with President George W. Bush, he formally thanked the United States for its help in ridding Iraq of Hussein, and also reaffirmed that terrorist attacks would not prevent Iraq from holding elections in January of 2005. A December deadline was established for candidates to petition to be on the ballot for the position of Iraqi prime minister.

In December of 2004 Allawi announced his decision to bring criminal proceedings against top officials of the Hussein regime. A Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service contributor quoted Allawi as stating: "I can now tell you clearly and precisely that, God willing, next week the trials of the symbols of the former regime will start, one by one, so that justice can take its path in Iraq." Not everyone thought this was a good idea, many noting Allawi's position as interim rather than elected leader of Iraq. Until an officially elected government was in place, many questioned the wisdom of putting such important criminals on trial. As a New York Times contributor editorialized: "Marching top officials of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-based Ba'athist dictatorship through an Iraqi courtroom a little more than five weeks before the election of a legitimate Iraqi government is such a breathtakingly bad idea that you would almost think it had been dreamed up by the leaders of the insurgency."

Decided to Stand for Election

While on a trip to Berlin, Germany, in December, Allawi learned of a new plot to assassinate him. Police arrested four men in connection with the plot, all of whom were part of the militant group Ansar al-Islam. The group was thought to be working closely with the terrorist group Al Qaeda and insurgent kingpin Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Upon his return to Iraq, Allawi denounced this attempt and in reaction announced that he was putting himself forward as a candidate for prime minister. When the entire roster of candidates was unveiled, Allawi's main opponent proved to be the Grand Ayatollah Ali al Husseini al-Sistani, Iraq's most respected Shiite cleric and a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, who put forth a roster of candidates that included interim vice president Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Although al-Sistani had initially approved of the choice of Allawi as interim prime minister, after Allawi spoke out against the United Iraqi Alliance due to their advocacy of a religious-based government his support was withdrawn. In fact, Allawi based his platform on his long-held belief that a secular government suited Iraq's multicultural nation better. As the deadline for submitting candidate's names approached, bombings increased. "As we get closer to the elections there will be an escalation in violence," predicted Allawi, as quoted in the New York Times. "We know we will pay a heavy price until we win, and we are going to win."

On January 30, 2005, over sixty percent of the Iraqi people bravely faced threats of violence and went to polls throughout Iraq and throughout the world to elect a prime minister and a 275-member National Assembly. It would be that assembly's duty, according to Hannah Allam in the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, "to draft a constitution and help supervise national elections for a permanent government" by the end of 2005. Candidates for the new governing body formed slates along ethnic or religious lines, and the political structure designed for the new government encouraged groups such as the influential United Iraqi Alliance to form politically beneficial alliances. As election day approached, fears of violence had pervaded not only the country, but the world. While Allawi had suggested spreading the elections over a two- to three-week period in order to better deal with security concerns, that proved to be unfeasible. Meanwhile, U.S. troops transported millions of dollars of voting equipment into the country only a week before the elections were to take place, its late arrival assuring that it could not be destroyed before it could be used.

In the weeks following the elections, the voting tallies showed the United Iraqi Alliance with a majority of seats in Iraq's new National Assembly. In the race for prime minister, the election results did not favor Allawi, who came in a distant third after United Iraqi Alliance candidates al-Jaafari and Ahmad Chalabi; al-Jaafari was later chosen by his party to be Iraq's next prime minister. Despite this setback, it was predicted by analysts that the interim prime minister would gain an influential appointment somewhere within the new, democratically elected Iraqi government, and he continued to hold office until the election results were finalized and the transition of political power took place. Meanwhile, in the face of claims that he had taken on the position of interim prime minister for personal reasons, Allawi was quoted by Allam in the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau as noting of the brief appointment: "It's very tiring, it's very exhausting, it's very demanding, it's very dangerous. I face every day at least two or three attempts to assassinate me. . . . We have to put the country back on its feet. Somebody has to do it. However, I assure you, practically, it's horrible."


Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, December 15, 2004; December 16, 2004.

Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, December 15, 2004; December 20, 2004.

New York Times, November 26, 2004; December 2, 2004; December 4, 2004; December 9, 2004; December 16, 2004; December 18, 2004; December 21, 2004; January 21, 2005.

Time, July 5, 2004.


"British-Educated Surgeon Is New Iraqi Prime Minister," Guardian Unlimited,,2763,1227372,00.html (May 29, 2004).

"Iraq PM: U.S. Departure Would Be Disaster,",,0,4568546.story?coll=ny/worldnews/headlines (June 4, 2004).

"New Iraqi PM Works on Govt. Team," ABC News Online, (May 29, 2004).