Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Yawar Gets Mixed Reviews

Iraq’s new interim president welcomed by many as a potential strong leader, although some see him as no more than an American agent.
By Omar Anwar

The appointment of a Sunni tribal leader and critic of the Coalition as interim president appears to have gone a long way towards convincing Iraqis that their country will have a strong leader after partial sovereignty is restored on June 30.

Although he was a member of the Coalition-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, widely perceived as ineffective, Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar gained widespread domestic support for criticising the United States-led military actions and seeking greater sovereignty for the interim government.

Many residents of Baghdad interviewed by IWPR believed that Yawar - a member of Iraq's prominent Shammar tribe who wears tribal dress - could deal effectively with Iraq's traditional society.

"Choosing al-Yawar was quite clever, because he is a tribesman and can understand the mentality of Iraqi tribal society," said Ragid al-Suhail, 35, an immunologist at Baghdad University. "His qutra and ikal - headdress and headband - are a sign of Iraq's Arabism and his adherence to it."

Eighty-three year old Khairia Mahmoud said Yawar's dress reminded her of Iraq's former monarchy, whose members wore similar clothes.

"He looks like the Iraqi kings," she said. "I hope Iraq can return to an era of love and prosperity under President al-Yawar."

Naseer Saleem Hesham, 26, said Yawar will need to prove himself a "fair and strong leader" by restoring security. But the unemployed science student added, "I believe he will succeed in his post.”

"At last we have a president" said Awatif Mahmood, a housewife. "I think the new government... can apply democracy and freedom and make Iraq stable, safe and prosperous."

Other Iraqis, however, were not convinced that the new government would be genuinely independent of the United States.

Mustafa Ibraheem, 24, a security guard, does not recognise the new government, which he says “is composed of agents appointed by the Americans to serve their interests".

Ibraheem also disparaged the presence of exiles like Yawar in the new government. "I don't believe that those who came from abroad will feel our hardship and sufferings," he said.

Former non-commissioned officer and car dealer Kareem Abu Layla, 44, said Yawar will not be able to make "free choices" because the "Americans are in full control".

"I want President Saddam Hussein back," he said. "Saddam Hussein is the only person who can bring security, and control the Iraqi people."

Omar Anwar and Zaineb Ahmed are IWPR trainee journalists in Baghdad.

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