Ibrahim Jaafari

Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari and his fellow Shiite politicians scrambled last week to form a government, a process that has been stalled since elections on Jan. 30. Iraqis are increasingly impatient, with violence once again on the rise. When Jaafari spoke with NEWSWEEK's Fareed Zakaria and Rod Nordland at his American-guarded villa in Baghdad's Green Zone last Thursday, it looked as if the deal at last was done. It was based on giving several key ministries to Sunni Arabs--even though they had boycotted the elections and have few seats in the Assembly. But by that evening the effort had collapsed, with Sunnis unsatisfied with the offer, and Kurds and Shiites bickering over how much to give them. Excerpts from the interview:

JAAFARI: Shiites--in their political agenda and their actions--do not desire to rule Shiites alone, but to rule all of Iraq. Thus it will be a civilized and modern agenda that accommodates all Iraqis. We suffered from [a] factional oppression and do not wish to replace it with a new one.

We insist on forming a multicommunity government for the cabinet we are about to form, in a way that will reflect the demographic nature of the population.

We are not sensitive about Sunnis because they are Sunnis. We're concerned about cases where people were involved in committing crimes, such as the local wars in Kurdistan, mass graves, executions, assassinations or proven association with Saddam. People who serve patriotically will not only be depended upon, they will also be protected.

Until now, all the measures dealing with the so-called resistance were symptomatic measures and did not address the deeper reasons behind this phenomenon. There are groups from some neighboring countries that try to conduct organized terrorism in Iraq, and such cases must be solved strategically with those countries. Poor education, which makes it easy to use youngsters... making them think they can go to paradise by killing people. Economic reasons: unemployed people conduct criminal acts for one or two hundred dollars. We will address this by fighting unemployment, creating strong relations with neighboring countries, trying to improve education, as well as strengthening and reinforcing the security forces.

Until the end of 2005, the multinational forces will be present to assist Iraqi secu-rity services, although this period might witness the beginning of the evaluation of the efficiency of the Iraqi forces, which in effect means the beginning of scheduling a timetable for the withdrawal.

We will commit ourselves to whatever the National Assembly decides, since it is the legislative body that will have to evaluate such issues. As in Turkey, where there is an American base, Incirlic, and the Turkish Parliament approved its presence in one case and disapproved it in another.

We believe the new security services can accommodate those individuals, since those services are derived from the people.

In the past, women participated in different sectors of life: medicine, teaching, engineering. Moreover, they even participated in the political process during the opposition period. Political processes historically have proven that women are worthy of participation. They also participated in these elections; in the former Parliament we had 30 women, in the current we have 80, which represents 30 percent, something even Western countries do not have.

We have Muslims of different sects and non-Muslims. One cannot interfere with the practices of any of them.

King Abdullah's statement is misleading and based on a misconception. The Shia all follow one school of religious thought, but their political concerns are different. It's part of another misconception about the Shiites that overlooks their nature, which is extremely tolerant and humane.