(Inter Press Service)
Security has collapsed again in Fallujah, Iraq, despite U.S. military claims. Local militias supported by U.S. forces claim to have "cleansed" the city, 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, of all insurgency. But the sudden resignation of the city’s chief of police, Col. Fayssal al-Zoba’i, has appeared as one recent sign of growing unrest.
Authorities may have controlled the media better than the violence.
"Assassinations never stopped in Fallujah, but the media seems unwilling to cover the actual situation here," a human rights activist in Fallujah, speaking on terms of anonymity given the tense situation, told the Inter Press Service (IPS). "The two bomb blasts that killed six policemen earlier this month and another two that killed three on the weekend seem to have terminated the silence."
People in Fallujah say they still suffer despite the relative improvement in the security situation. “Relative” is the key word, because the improvement is measured against two massive U.S. military operations in 2004 that killed thousands in the city and displaced hundreds of thousands.
"Fallujah was slaughtered by the Americans when her people decided to fight, and then were suffocated when they decided to reduce the fighting against the occupiers," former Iraqi intelligence officer Maj. Ahmed al-Alwani told IPS. "There was strong resistance against American occupation forces since May 2003, but it was the Americans who pointed their guns at the innocent civilians and their houses.
"When the American military plans failed, they decided to hire local tribal militias to do the job for them," Alwani said, referring to the “Awakening Group” militias created by the U.S. military. "Those also failed, despite the executions and the crimes they committed against people."
Many people throughout Iraq complain of the brutality and reportedly unlawful behavior of these Awakening Groups. Members of these groups are paid $300 per month by the U.S. military.
IPS talked to Sheikh Wussam al-Hardan, known as the “engineer” of the Awakening Forces of Anbar Province. He blamed the Islamic Party for abuses carried out against civilians in Fallujah.
"We had a very limited role in Fallujah, and the police force was in charge of all security operations there," Hardan said. "We know that all detentions and executions were committed in our name, but people of Fallujah now know that it was the Islamic Party that controlled the police force that was active since January 2007."
On June 26, a suicide bomber attacked a city council meeting of local tribal sheikhs affiliated with Awakening Groups and military officials. Three Marines, two interpreters, and 20 Iraqis died in the attack. Among the Iraqis killed were the mayor of nearby Karmah, three leading sheikhs, the sons of two of the sheikhs, and the brother of the third. All were members of the local Awakening Council, according to U.S. and Iraqi authorities.
"Security events take place all over Iraq and people get killed," Captain Jamal of the Fallujah police told IPS. "But we wonder why all this huge echo for two incidents in a city that exiled the U.S. Marines with all their military machine."
According to a survey conducted in March for several news organizations by D3 Systems of Virginia and KA Research Ltd. of Istanbul, most Iraqis blame the U.S. military for the worsening security situation.
The majority of Iraqis surveyed disapproved of U.S.-backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, most disapproved of the Iraqi government, and most felt that all occupation forces should leave Iraq immediately.
The police forces are particularly unpopular. "The police force mainly consists of young men from surrounding villages who are loyal to their tribal chiefs," Rammy al-Rawi, a university student who lives in Fallujah, told IPS. "We believe it is a fight between the Islamic Party and the Awakening Groups of the tribes who are both collaborating with the Americans for money and power."
Ali al-Fadhily is the Inter Press Service correspondent in Baghdad who works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, the Inter Press Service’s U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq.