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New leaders in Iraq have deep ties to U.S.

[ Many Iraqis may be uncomfortable with the foreign, especially U.S., ties of the new, nonelected Iraqi government:

Although about a third of the new government’s leaders spent most of their lives under Saddam Hussein’s rule, five of the six leading posts in the government are held by people who lived a significant part of their lives abroad, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

At least two cabinet members are U.S. citizens. In addition to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who was involved in a CIA-backed coup attempt against Saddam, at least seven others were members of exile groups financed by the United States.

–BL ]

June 08, 2004 | carried by the International Herald Tribune

by Farah Stockmanand Thanassis Cambanis of The Boston Globe

Exiles will continue to play major roles

WASHINGTON — Iraq’s newly appointed minister of communications, a former mobile network designer, owns a home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he is still a registered voter.

The minister of electricity, an avid Bulls basketball fan, has also kept his home, which is on the outskirts of Chicago. His voice still directs callers to leave him a message on the answering machine of the engineering firm that he left for “an indefinite leave of absence.”

Iraq’s new minister of industry and minerals, educated at the University of Connecticut, had lived in the United States since 1979 before returning to Iraq in 2003, where he still talks animatedly about the Huskies of the University of Connecticut, known for their championship basketball teams.

Links to the United States run deep among many in the interim Iraqi government, even as the diverse, 33-member body gears up to assert its independence from the U.S. government.

In a country where political success hangs on the ability to bridge deep differences between Sunni and Shiite, Arab and Kurd, technocrat and politician, the new government must also manage one of the most daunting divides: that between exiles who have made their lives in the West and home-grown leaders who never left Iraq.

Although about a third of the new government’s leaders spent most of their lives under Saddam Hussein’s rule, five of the six leading posts in the government are held by people who lived a significant part of their lives abroad, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

At least two cabinet members are U.S. citizens. In addition to Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, who was involved in a CIA-backed coup attempt against Saddam, at least seven others were members of exile groups financed by the United States.

The high-profile role of exiles, both in the previous U.S.-appointed government and the one that the UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi announced Tuesday, irks many Iraqis and could present a lingering challenge for the political transition in Iraq.

“Honestly, most of the ministers I think are British, American or French passport holders,” said Dr. Raja al-Khuzai, a Shiite gynecologist who during Saddam’s regime ran a clinic in the southern Iraqi town of Diwaniya. “Very few of them are Iraqis. That was not the idea when Brahimi first came here and sat next to me and said, ‘We want people like you who stayed in Iraq.'”

Resentment may be exacerbated by the fact that many members of the disbanded U.S.-appointed Governing Council who did not receive posts in the new government are preparing to return to homes in Europe and elsewhere.

The halls are deserted in the building where the former Governing Council members still have offices. Many never brought their families with them to Iraq; nor did they quit their jobs at banks and consulting companies but took yearlong leaves of absence.

This week, Fuad Hussein, former minister of social affairs, prepared to return to the Netherlands, where his family awaits him. He will stay there for a couple of months before deciding whether to return to Iraq or resume consulting for international corporations that do business in the Middle East.

“I wanted to bring my family here, until the fall,” when violence surged, Hussein said. Now, he added, he may not come back.

Samir Shakir Mahmoud al-Sumaiday, a London businessman who was minister of interior from April until the new government was announced Tuesday, said two days later that he was planning to head back to Britain, where his family had remained.

“I’m a man of leisure now,” he said.

He said that after about two months he would probably come back to seek a role for himself in a future government. He was not sure whether he would run for elective office.

Even Adnan Pachachi, who narrowly missed becoming president of Iraq after his colleagues on the council threw last-minute support behind another candidate, immediately withdrew to his exile base in the United Arab Emirates, where he is deciding whether to run in next year’s elections.

“It’s an issue,” Joseph Siegle , a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “How do you reconcile these dynamics in these countries where you have had a long civil war or a period of tyranny that has driven a majority of educated or middle-class leaders out of the country?”

Years in exile have added to lingering questions of legitimacy for Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s leader, Siegle said.

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