TIKRIT, Iraq — An Iraqi military officer who fought the United States during the 1991 Persian Gulf War was appointed by the Americans on Wednesday as governor of Saddam Hussein's heartland, a tense province still teeming with the deposed dictator's supporters.
Brig. Gen. Hosin Jasem Mohamed Jbouri, a native of Tikrit, Hussein's hometown, inherits the reins of Salahuddin province as an interim chief executive. He serves at the pleasure of the U.S. occupying force that appointed him.
"I don't think we can make the assumption that just because someone was in the Baath Party they are evil," said Maj. Mike Silverman, operations officer for the U.S. Army 4th Infantry Division's 1st Brigade, responsible for Tikrit. Silverman fought briefly in the Gulf War against Jbouri's unit. "Soldiers are patriots," Silverman said. "He fought for his country, and I fought for my country. There's no blood feud here."
Jbouri, whose name was put forward by the Tikrit chief of the U.S.-backed Free Iraqi Forces, said he doesn't worry about being perceived as a lackey by pro-Hussein elements in Tikrit.
"They are not a majority. They are a minority," he said. "And 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."
He said he wants to get police back to work and make people feel safe by restoring such basic services as schools and hospitals.