On Friday, in a surreal piece, the Times of London reported on life in Fallujah, where, despite two epic 2004 battles and the "heavy presence" of U.S. forces, residents are, according to one refugee from Baghdad, almost universally "with the resistance."[1]  --  Reporter Ned Parker described the political viewpoint of a 22-year-old Sunni who believes that the Washington-supported government in Baghdad is really controlled by Tehran:  "'If the Americans put their hands with the resistance, we can kick out the Iranians,' he told the Times.  If not, he vowed to continue fighting U.S. forces, whether with his group or al-Qaeda."  --  With civil war gripping the land, Iraq is breaking up:  "Month by month restive Anbar province seems to drift farther away from Baghdad," Parker said.  --  "Economic links between Anbar and Baghdad have been all but severed." ...

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World News

Inside Iraq

WAR-RAVAGED CITY OFFERS FLEEING SUNNIS REFUGE FROM DEATH SQUADS
By Ned Parker

** Economic links with Baghdad cut — Protests over Saddam hanging **

Times (London)
January 5, 2007

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,174-2532427,00.html

FALLUJAH -- Month by month restive Anbar province seems to drift farther away from Baghdad. Fallujah, the war-torn city at its heart, has become a magnet for the country’s displaced Sunnis, with potentially devastating consequences for Iraq.

The tens of thousands who have fled there in recent months are seeking refuge among rival Sunni armed factions, and under tough Islamic law imposed by al-Qaeda, rather than risk a brush with the Shia militias who reign in Baghdad. “It is safe in Fallujah because all the Sunnis here are with the resistance,” said Rabia Rajab, 35, restaurant owner who ran away from the Iraqi capital.

This is a city whose mentality could not be more at odds with that of its notional government in Baghdad, and the tensions are likely to be increased by the grisly footage of Saddam Hussein’s hanging.

Fallujah’s main street is now plastered with posters calling for the hospital to be renamed Saddam the Martyr General Hospital. They have been put up by an insurgent group called Muhammad’s Army. Houses throughout the city have in recent days been blaring Koranic verse in mourning for the former dictator.

Economic links between Anbar and Baghdad have been all but severed. People no longer travel between the two to work or shop.

“The Iraqi Government wants to destroy the Sunnis. The Iranians tell them what to do,” Mr Rajab said, as he sat in a tent with about 50 other men. They were waiting for U.S. Marines to take their fingerprints, scan their retinas, and issue them with a residency card.

The plastic card is a requirement for living in the city. Marine checkpoints surround the city limits in an attempt to impede Sunni insurgents, who dominated Fallujah until the military’s onslaught in November 2004, which reduced much of the city to rubble.

In the tent at the U.S.-run Fallujah Development Center, the displaced Sunnis waiting for their identity cards were proud of their links with insurgent groups. In some cases they were actual fighters.

Muhammad Kaleb, 22, showed the scar from a bullet hole on his back from what he said was a gunfight with U.S. forces three months ago. He said that his group, the 1920 Revolution Brigade, wanted to make common cause with the Americans in fighting Baghdad’s “Iranian-backed” Government and militias. “If the Americans put their hands with the resistance, we can kick out the Iranians,” he told the Times. If not, he vowed to continue fighting U.S. forces, whether with his group or al-Qaeda.

Mr. Rajab’s flight last month from Baghdad was like that of many who have fled the capital since the bombing of the Shia al-Askariya mosque in Samarra last February. He lived on Haifa street, a boulevard in western Baghdad, and left for Fallujah after his mother and sister-in-law were shot by a sniper from al-Mahdi Army. He said that his sister-in-law died and then the Iraqi police tried to arrest him for being Sunni.

Despite the U.S. military’s heavy presence in Fallujah, insurgents continue to terrify residents. Three city council members have been killed since December 2005 and more than 40 policemen have been murdered. Locals claim that al-Qaeda has imposed a tough form of Islamic law on the city, ranging from a ban on cigarettes to an anti-Western dress code for men and women.

On a recent patrol by U.S. Marines and Iraqi soldiers down an unpaved street, a man named Ali, dressed in a grey sweater, told the Times: “We are caught in the middle between the Mujahidin (holy warriors) and the Iraqi Army. We want security. We just need the two sides to leave.”

U.S. commanders are hoping to capitalize on the population’s desire for normality. The military has poured $200 million into reconstruction. “The educated class, the locals, don’t see al-Qaeda as an ally. What do they have in common with al-Qaeda? Nothing,” U.S. commander, Colonel Nicholson, told the Times.

--President Bush said last night that he wished Saddam’s execution “had gone on in a more dignified way.” Mr. Bush spoke after conferring with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s Prime Minister, on the telephone.

--The Times is the only British paper to maintain a full-time Baghdad bureau in Baghdad.

ON THE MOVE

85,708 displaced Iraqis have moved to Anbar province since 2003.

48,566 have arrived since the Samarra mosque bombing last February. Most are Sunni Arabs from Baghdad and Basra.

29,960 have moved to the province as a result of military operations rather than sectarian fighting.

32,634 displaced Iraqis live in Fallujah.

--Source: International Organisation for Migration