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Last Updated: Friday, 21 April 2006, 20:34 GMT 21:34 UK
Iraq conflict thwarts PM Jaafari
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

Ibrahim al-Jaafari
Jaafari came to be seen as weak and ineffective
The step which ended months of political deadlock in Iraq was the announcement by the interim Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, that his political future should be decided by the Shia alliance which had nominated him for the job.

He had previously insisted he would not stand down.

Mr Jaafari's misfortune was that he was prime minister at a time when Iraq began its descent into bitter sectarian conflict.

It is debatable whether any Iraqi leader could have solved the country's most pressing problems.

But it did not help that Mr Jaafari - a softly-spoken former medical doctor in his late 50s - came across as weak and ineffectual, a well-intentioned intellectual rather than a man of decisive leadership.

Growing criticism

Born in Karbala, a city in southern Iraq holy to Shia Muslims, he joined the Daawa party in the 1960s.

The oldest of Iraq's Shia political movements, the party conducted a violent campaign against the regime of Saddam Hussein - and Mr Jaafari was eventually forced to flee the country, first to Iran and later to Britain.

After Saddam Hussein's fall, Mr Jaafari he returned home, helping the Daawa become one of the three dominant elements in a loose Shia alliance.

After being appointed prime minister last year, however, he came under increasing criticism for failing to curb the violence and increasing sectarianism, or to improve basic services for ordinary Iraqis.

At the end, his stubborn refusal - right up to the last minute - to stand down alienated his remaining allies, and it was reportedly only after the intervention of the most senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, that he finally relinquished his post.

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