The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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India link in Americaís Iraq

Washington, March 25: Away from television screens, unseen by the public, the US is waging another war for control of Iraq, a war in which Indian and South Asian connections figure prominently.

Robin Raphel, who became a household name among Indiaís chattering classes as the US administrationís point person for South Asia in the first Clinton presidency, will be one of the key US officials running Iraq when Saddam Husseinís regime is toppled.

Kenton Keith, who set up and ran the Coalition Information Center in Islamabad during the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, will be another member of the team.

Insisting that the war schedule in Iraq is proceeding according to plans, mishaps notwithstanding, the Bush administration is racing against time to set up the post-Saddam administration in Iraq.

With no Hamid Karzai emerging so far in Baghdad to fill the vacuum left by the anticipated collapse of the Baath regime, the civil administration to be set up for Iraq by the Americans will be headed by Jay Garner, according to details emerging here.

A retired US Army general who supervised aid to the Kurds after the 1991 Gulf War, he will report to the chief war commander, General Tommy Franks. Although Franks will be the nominal head of Iraq under US rule, the de facto viceroy will be Garner as the former concentrates on the long term strategy of what Washington seeks to achieve from the occupation of Iraq.

Garner is already in Kuwait putting in place his team which will move to Baghdad -- as soon as it is safe to do so -- with the daunting task of creating a civilian administration, providing relief and starting reconstruction.

He has drawn up a list of 200 former diplomats, military personnel and civil servants to assist him in the job, sources here said.

After World War II, the occupation forces ruled Japan for seven years and Germany for four.

At the top of Garnerís list of 200 is one more woman in addition to Raphel. She is Barbara Bodine, who will be the equivalent of governor of central Iraq in the new set-up, according to information here. Although the selection of two women for top jobs in a Muslim country will be controversial, the choice was made because of their expertise in the area. Bodine was ambassador to Yemen in 2000 when the US navy destroyer Cole was attacked by terrorists.

Raphelís last diplomatic assignment was as ambassador to Tunisia, but one of her early postings was in Iran, said to be as a CIA operative under the cover of aid official.

All the other names of US diplomats circulating here for Iraq assignments are people with a West Asian past. Keith was himself ambassador to Qatar, now a US ally. Another West Asian expert who is said to have agreed to serve under Garner is Timothy Carney, former ambassador to Sudan.

In this White House, family connections are crucial: therefore, the most challenging job in the new Iraq will go to an Yale classmate of the first President Bush, father of the current president. William Eagleton, now 77, served in Iraq even before Saddam Hussein came to power. He later served the UN in Bosnia. Eagleton will be assigned Kirkuk and deal with the Kurdish problem and Turkey.

One reason why the US was keen to encourage defections from Saddamís government and army was the hope that the existing Iraqi bureaucracy and the army could administer and reconstruct the country.

In Eastern Europe and the Baltic and Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union, the bureaucracies and the cream of the Communist leadership was retained almost in toto to run the post-Marxist administrations, a broad model Washington is trying to replicate in Baghdad.

The US is also choosing about 100 Iraqi exiles with specific expertise to work in various ministries in Baghdad and provincial cities, but they will report to de facto ministers who will be Americans.

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