- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq — U.S. military officials yesterday tapped a former officer of the Republican Guard to be the acting mayor of Saddam Hussein’s hometown and the governor of the surrounding Salah ad-Din province.Brig. Gen. Hosin Jasem Mohamed al-Jbouri, a Tikrit native who fought U.S. forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf war but later was imprisoned by Saddam, will work with Americans to rebuild the political and economic infrastructure in and around the town.Various faction figures had been vying for the post, some going so far as showing up at the American civil affairs office and telling U.S. troops that they had been elected to lead the city and province, said Col. Don Campbell, commander of the 4th Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade.”We told the guys who thought they were in power to leave the building today,” said Col. Campbell, whose brigade is in charge of the rebuilding process in the region.Col. Campbell said the 4th Infantry moved the bulk of its civil affairs operations into a downtown office yesterday, and that Mr. al-Jbouri will work from there until the main government office is restored.Nahad Gaze Ahmed al-Nasere, a former Iraqi air force colonel, was appointed deputy governor. He and Mr. al-Jbouri were required to sign statements renouncing any loyalty to Saddam’s Ba’ath Party and rejecting any claims it might have on power.With no newspaper or local radio station functioning to announce developments, it is too early to know how the 30,000 people of Tikrit, an agricultural and university town about 90 miles north of Baghdad, will respond to the appointments. Tikrit is the hometown of Saddam and still has many of the deposed leader’s loyalists.Military officials said they will be working very closely with Mr. al-Jbouri and Mr. al-Nasere as they shape a transition government to be in place until elections are held. The men were expected to begin appointing officials as early as today.Before the war, Mr. al-Jbouri, 54, was retired from a posting in the Ba’ath Party as head of the country’s customs service. But, he said, he had a long and rocky history with the party and Saddam.Mr. al-Jbouri said he was jailed for eight months by Saddam in 1993 on trumped-up charges of misallocating a small amount of government money. The reality, he said, is that after the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, he had become too popular among his troops and Saddam apparently had felt threatened.Mr. al-Jbouri caught the interest of 4th Infantry commanders after his name was brought forward by Yarab al-Hashimi, the Tikrit chief of the U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces connected to Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi. Mr. al-Hashimi said he first met Mr. al-Jbouri a decade ago when both were imprisoned by Saddam.Col. Campbell said he has met several times with Mr. al-Jbouri and trusts the man. “Rather than me being the mayor, what I wanted to do was get the Iraqis and Tikritis involved in the process,” Col. Campbell said.Mr. al-Jbouri said he is not concerned about being perceived as a lackey by pro-Saddam forces in Tikrit. While Col. Campbell’s soldiers and Iraqis have torn down nearly all murals of Saddam, the city remains a pocket of his most loyal followers.The loyalists, who include a small number of Fedayeen Saddam fighters and other anti-U.S. paramilitary types, “are a minority,” Mr. al-Jbouri told the Associated Press in Tikrit yesterday. “If we do a good job for the people, they will learn the good side of the Americans. When you see things are going well, you get their trust.”Col. Campbell and other U.S. commanders have been encouraging Iraqis to assert themselves and take control of their country.With Ba’ath Party leaders no longer around to direct people in Tikrit, military officials say it can be difficult to motivate residents to take initiative in the rebuilding process.

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