US sets up Iraq battle HQ in Gulf Ed Vulliamy in New York Sunday December 1, 2002 The Observer The United States is preparing to install a new command centre in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar to act as its headquarters in the war against Iraq. It is the first time a major military HQ has been based outside the US. The centre at As Sayliyah will form America's base for its generals, giving them complete command and control on the doorstep of the theatre of war. The centre will have all the functions of the headquarters in Pensicola, Florida, from which the Afghan war was managed. The man who oversaw that war, General Tommy R. Franks - Head of the Pentagon's Central Command - is due to land in Qatar with 750 staff from US Central Command within a week to supervise a large military exercise, called Internal Look. American officials said the command and control procedures used would be the same used for a war with Iraq. Yet according to the New York Times, the United States has not yet even asked Qatar - a nation of 750,000 inhabitants - if the country can be used as a base camp for a war against Saddam Hussein. Its official line is that the US is merely improving its military readiness. The 262-acre, $100 million base at As Sayliyah is home to enough tanks to form an army brigade, and is the largest single depot for US Army equipment outside the country. It has more than 20 climate-controlled warehouses, storing hundreds of M1 tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and other armoured vehicles. Qatar has emerged as a crucial US military ally in the region, in effect replacing Saudi Arabia, after being jolted by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. 'They woke up to the fact that they needed superpower protection,' said a Western official. On the other hand, Qatar will also be concerned about the response of its Arab neighbours; it is also the location for the Al-Jazeera TV network, which has been a supporter of the Palestinian cause, and relayer of Osama bin Laden's videotaped messages.