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Islamic Da'wah (Call) Party

Unlike the two other Shia-Islamist parties - SCIRI / ISCI and al-Sadr - the Da'wa party has neither grass-roots political organisation nor a militia. Da'wa's role is a buffer between the two othermore important Shia-Islamist parties. Established in 1957-58, it is largely seen as a Shi'a organization, but does claim some Sunni membership. The ideology of the Da'wa (meaningthe call or 'invitation' to Islam in Arabic) was at first a pan-Islamist ideology invit-ing Muslims to engage in modern social, based on reflections on how to implementGod's will in modern social life.

Saddam Hussein repressed the Da'wa Party ruthlessly and party membership was made a capital crime. During the late 1970s the leaders of Da'wa either fled the country or were imprisoned or killed. During the 1980s, Da'wa groups undertook a number of spectacularly violent operations. Encouraged by Iranian intelligence, Da'wa groups also struck against Iraq's Westernand Arab allies in the war against Iran. In was during this period that Nuri al-Maliki was heading the Da'wa office in Da-mascus and was active in organising help in establishing a new Shia-Islamist organi-sation in Lebanon, the Hizbollah.

In January 2000, Al-Da'wah Party spokesman Muhammad Mahdi al-Asefi resigned after members of the party's leadership rejected his call for the appointment of a representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the party's political bureau. The spokesman of the party, Ibrahim al-Ja'fari told London's "Al-Zaman" in a 25 January 2000 interview that the party's political leadership did not want to link itself to the Islamic leadership in Iran.

Al-Ja'fari stressed to "Al-Zaman" that Al-Da'wah is "an Iraqi movement in the Iraqi arena." He also emphasized his party's approach to politics that many would later describe as al-Ja'fari's own style. "When Al-Da'wah proposes a plan or is a key partner to a plan...[it] works on expanding what is common between it and other political parties, whether they are Islamists or non-Islamists. It does this so as to ensure that the desired [result] has a broad base of agreement," he said. "A successful politician is one who levels with his people and who has flexibility and frankness."

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari served on the Iraqi Governing Council. In February 2004, al-Ja'fari took the lead in trying to heal a long-standing Shi'ite rift that reemerged between SCIRI and rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr by calling for a united stand. He adopted the principle of federalism, telling Jeddah's "Ukaz" that month: "Federalism will be a good thing if it safeguards Iraq's unity and revolves around the sovereignty and unity of Iraq's soil, skies, resources, and people.... Federalism does not violate our history or our Islamic faith and beliefs. It should be looked at objectively...." Al-Ja'fari was subsequently appointed interim vice president in July 2004.

The party is arguably the biggest and most well-supported Shi'a group in Iraq, having long opposed Ba'athist rule. The group was primarily based in Iran from 1980, after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein declared membership to the group as punishable by death. The group attempted to assassinate former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in April 1980. The party joined the so-called Group of Seven leading Iraqi political parties to enjoy the support of the United States following the downfall of the Hussein regime. Prior to that, the group had limited contact with Iraqi opposition parties. Al-Da'wah claims to have lost 77,000 members to the Hussein regime. Some 40,000 Shi'ites were deported by the Ba'athist regime beginning in the 1970s after being labeled "Iranians".

In early 2006, a dispute among the factions over the post of prime minister delayed the formation of a permanent government. By April 2006 Ibrahim al-Ja'fari faced a new challenge in his bid for a second term as prime minister, as voices within his own coalition questioned his candidacy. Rumors had swirled for weeks over growing opposition to al-Ja'fari's nomination among some factions within the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). Finally, four out of seven factions within the UIA have come out against al-Ja'fari. In a bold move, two high-profile Shi'ite leaders broke the silence and called on al-Ja'fari to step aside in the interest of national unity.

After the Shiite prime minister-designate, Ibrahim al Jafari, was unable to form a government, Nouri al Maliki, another leader of Jafari's party, was chosen to replace him in May 2006. A full permanent government, with ministries divided among the major factions, was in place in June, avoiding a major crisis but still facing bitter divisions among the populace.

By 2008 former Prime Minister Jaafari was reported to be trying at present to establish yet another Da'wa Party because he was critical of Maliki's pro-ISCI political line.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:38:08 ZULU