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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
US struggles to foster Iraqi leaders
By Tarik Kafala
BBC News Online

The US and British militaries, the "authority" in Iraq according to the wording of a draft resolution being considered at the UN, are trying to foster a political process to establish an interim government in Iraq.

There are different patterns of power emerging in different places and the Americans are not in control of this process
Charles Tripp
University of London
The current US civil administrator in Iraq, Jay Garner, has hosted various "big tent" meetings to sample opinion and to show American willing to consult and involve Iraqis of all kinds.

However, this process has a serious credibility problem among Iraqis and has been only partly successful at a local level.

Many of the big players boycotted the US-sponsored meetings, and more worryingly for the authority, there seem to be parallel processes going on that do not involve the US or Britain at all.

Shia protest, Baghdad
Shia Iraqis demonstrate against the coalition presence and call for Islamic government
"There are different patterns of power emerging in different places and the Americans are not in control of this process," Charles Tripp, an Iraq specialist at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, told BBC News Online.

"Even in terms of the American civil administration, just look at all the comings and goings - they are themselves in chaos."

Mr Garner is going to be replaced by Paul Bremer, and senior diplomat Barbara Bodine has already been recalled to Washington, in a sign that the fostering of this political process has been much harder than anticipated.

Exiles come home

Jay Garner, who officially leaves his post in mid-June, has pinpointed five Iraqis to form the nucleus of a provisional Iraqi Government. This body is meant to gather at some point in May.

The members so far announced are three returned exiles and two Kurdish leaders.

Jay Garner
After what was widely seen as a lacklustre performance, Jay Garner is being replaced
Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish leaders, have well established political and military power bases in Kurdish northern Iraq.

Also included is Ahmed Chalabi, the US Pentagon's protege and head of the Iraqi National Congress. Mr Chalabi has not lived in Iraq for more than three decades and has no discernable constituency there.

The two others named are Ayad Alawi of the Iraqi National Accord, and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a senior figure in the Tehran-based Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution.

These five are is expected to be augmented by four Iraq-based figures, though no names have been announced.

Local power

None of these potential government members proposed by Mr Garner, except for the Kurdish leaders, can be said to represent any of the locally rooted political or religious groups that have been sprouting up across Iraq.

Especially in the majority Shia community, mosque leaders have taken matters into their own hands - restoring some order, running hospitals, distributing food, water and medicines.

No national figure was allowed to emerge and last under Saddam Hussein - that's what dictators do. A range of exiles are selling themselves as national figures to the United States, but they are not
Charles Tripp
Shia religious leaders all over Iraq have quickly stepped into the vacuum left by the destroyed and disintegrated administration of Saddam Hussein.

There also appears to be a power struggle under way between established community leaders and emerging, more radical groups.

The aim of these and other non-Shia leaders appears to be to establish their power base and influence on a local level and to make themselves indispensable to whatever comes out of the process in being run by the US and UK.

No national leader

The problem for the coalition is that there is no national religious or political leader in Iraq.

"I don't think there is anyone around. No national figure was allowed to emerge and last under Saddam Hussein - that's what dictators do. A range of exiles are selling themselves as national figures to the United States, but they are not," Charles Tripp said.

Adnan Pachachi, a former Iraqi foreign minister and a nationalist with a secular liberal outlook, was being touted as a possible caretaker leader.

Food distribution outside a moque oin Baghdad
Mosque leaders are stepping into the vacuum left by Saddam's administration
Mr Pachachi is believed to have refused to join the American-backed interim government, saying that such a body must emerge from a broad-based election, not be appointed by the coalition.

The coalition has also struggled with finding Iraqi administrators and officials to run the ministries in Baghdad.

Much to the embarrassment of US officials, the first minister appointed by the Americans, Ali Shana al-Janabi, resigned.

Mr Janabi was meant to be the new health minister, but pulled out after widespread protests. Under the previous regime he was a senior Baath Party official and is alleged to have benefited financially from widespread corruption in the old Health Ministry.

The British army in Basra, Charles Tripp says, appears to be making a better fist of finding and encouraging Iraqi leaders than the Americans in Baghdad.

"They are consulting widely and choosing the people they deal with and draw into leadership and administration more carefully. In Basra there is a local leadership emerging that is ready to co-operate pragmatically with the British forces."

Partial successes

There have been some other successes for the coalition on a local level.

In Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city, about 200 Iraqis representing all the ethnic and religious communities elected a 24-member council at a meeting organised by the US military.

It was the first time any kind of election process has succeeded since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The council's composition is a clear attempt to try to reflect the religious and ethnic make-up of Mosul and surrounding areas.

The delegates elected an Arab mayor for Mosul, retired army General Ghanim al-Basso, a Kurdish deputy mayor and two assistant mayors, one Turkmen and one Assyrian.

And in the south of Iraq, Umm Qasr, a port town of 45,000 people, has officially been handed back to Iraqi control.

The running of the town has been temporarily handed over to 12 professionals until elections for a longer-term town council can be held at the end of May.

It is not clear that the coalition authority will be able to foster or impose this kind of process in other parts of Iraq.

The various communities will need to be convinced that it is in their interest to co-operate to this extent with their occupiers.

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