Bremer aims to end rivalry that has crippled aid efforts

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The Independent Online

The American official newly charged with the task of rebuilding Iraq flew into Baghdad yesterday on a mission to end the chaos, install a new government, and stop the intense feuding between Washington departments that has paralysed the reconstruction effort.

The American official newly charged with the task of rebuilding Iraq flew into Baghdad yesterday on a mission to end the chaos, install a new government, and stop the intense feuding between Washington departments that has paralysed the reconstruction effort.

The arrival of Paul Bremer amounts to an attempt by the United States to relaunch its efforts to restore the shattered country and create a Washington-approved transitional Iraqi government after a start that has been little short of disastrous. He was appointed by President George Bush last week as the senior administrator, replacing Jay Garner, the retired US Army general who heads the US-led Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA).

Fierce rivalry over control between Donald Rumsfeld's Defence Department and the State Department, under Colin Powell, has crippled the operations of the ORHA. General Garner is expected to leave by the end of the month.

Frustration has been steadily growing on the streets of Baghdad over the failure of the Americans to end the looting and general lawlessness, and their slow progress in restoring services and jobs.

"The politicking has been absolutely appalling," one disgruntled official said. "You constantly see people pacing around with their Thurayas [mobile satellite phones] using the back channels in Washington to undermine the oper- ation here."

The US Defence Department and its generals say they fought and won the war, so they have been keen to continue dictating events in Baghdad, where they still have tanks on the streets. The civilian reconstruction team, however, says the militaristic approach is heavy-handed and counter-productive to building confidence and forging ties with Iraqis.

The State Department believes it is better equipped to handle the complex task of building a government. The choice of Mr Bremer, a protégé of Henry Kissinger and, significantly, a counter-terrorism expert, appears to be a victory for the latter.

Though tough and at times bombastic, he is generally respected for his grasp of the intricacies of Iraqi politics and is thought to be better versed in this area than General Garner. It is understood the US reconstruction effort will have a less military character and the civilian role – and British involvement – will be strengthened.

Even before Mr Bremer touched down, he had made his mark. Barbara Bodine, who was in charge of the Baghdad region, had clashed with US commanders and is being abruptly pulled back to Washington. Margaret Tutwiler, who, though in charge of communications, has declined to meet the foreign press, is also expected to be leaving soon with other officials.

Senior ORHA officials, such as Britain's General Tim Cross, number two to Jay Garner, have tried to play down the problems. But the transition effort has been plagued by internal rivalry, mistaken policies, tough working conditions, and adopting the wrong priorities, such as preparing for humanitarian assistance that was not needed on anything like the anticipated scale.

There has also been bad luck. Several hundred of the 1,000 American and British officials headquartered in the largest of Saddam's palaces in Baghdad, have either had, or are still suffering from, a virus which makes them vomit.

The decision to base the ORHA in a palace that is utterly remote from Iraqis, who were too scared to even look through the gates of such places, and a symbol of a despotic and cruel regime, has been criticised. But sources say the conditions are harsh. Officials are sleeping six to a room; there are only 20 showers for 1,000 people, and the food is "dismal".

Many hundreds of foreign journalists have been travelling around the city, and beyond, for a month, without guns, escorts or armoured cars. But when an ORHA official ventures out, they have an escort of American Humvees or Bradley fighting vehicles, mounted with 50mm heavy machine-guns. This approach does not easily square with the Allies' mission to break down barriers between them and the Iraqi people.

And after taking Baghdad, the Americans failed to stop the massive destruction by looters and arsonists in most government ministries and across much of the infrastructure.

One source said: "You will never get anyone to admit this but the US Army was two divisions short for the numbers needed to secure the key sites because of Rumsfeld's philosophy of using uniquely light forces. If we had two more divisions now in Baghdad, and a bit beyond, these security problems would probably go away."

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