RAMADI, Iraq, Nov 29 (IPS) – A semblance of calm belies an undercurrent of violence, detentions and fear across Iraq’s volatile al-Anbar province.
The province — which occupies one-third of Iraq’s geographic area — has been a bane to authorities since the beginning of the occupation.
"The Americans talked about our province as the deadliest enemy, and suddenly they are marketing us as their best friends," Sa’doon Khalifa, an independent politician in the capital city of al-Anbar Province, Ramadi — 110 km west of Baghdad — told IPS. "They were lying to their people and to the world in both cases as we were never terrorists nor their friends now," he stressed.
Khalifa explained that resistance fighters in al-Anbar did fight occupation forces, but now they are standing down from launching new attacks against U.S. forces.
This is due in large part to U.S. military payments to collaborating tribal sheikhs — already totalling over 17 million dollars. The money funds tribal fighters who are paid 300 dollars per month to patrol their areas, particularly against foreign fighters.
The military refers to these men as "Concerned Local Citizens," "Awakening Force," or simply "volunteers," even though it is well known that most of them used to carry out attacks against the occupation forces.
"Those Americans thought they would decrease the resistance attacks by separating the people of Iraq into sects and tribes," a 32-year-old man from Ramadi — speaking on terms of anonymity — told IPS, "They know they are going deeper into the moving sand, but the collaborators are fooling the Americans right now, and will in the end use this strategy against them."
As of Wednesday, the U.S. military counts 77,000 of these fighters. It plans to add another 10,000. Eighty-two percent