Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports in Saturday’s Guardian why there has been a recent drop in violence in Iraq:
You can read the entire article here.Abu Abed, a member of the insurgent Islamic Army, has recently become the commander of the US-sponsored "Ameriya Knights". He is one of the new breed of Sunni warlords who are being paid by the US to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The Americans call their new allies Concerned Citizens.
It is a strategy that has worked well for the Americans, on paper at least. This week, the US military claimed it had forced the extremist group al-Qaida in Mesopotamia out of Baghdad altogether, and cut the number of murders in the city by 80%. Major General Joseph Fil, commander of US forces in Baghdad, said: "The Iraqi people have decided that they've had it up to here with violence."
Critics of the plan say they are simply creating powerful new strongmen who run their own prisons and armies, and who eventually will turn on each other.
A senior Sunni sheikh, whose tribe is joining the new alliance with the Americans against al-Qaida, told me in Beirut that it was a simple equation for him. "It's just a way to get arms, and to be a legalised security force to be able to stand against Shia militias and to prevent the Iraqi army and police from entering their areas," he said.
"The Americans lost hope with an Iraqi government that is both sectarian and dominated by militias, so they are paying for locals to fight al-Qaida. It will create a series of warlords.
"It's like someone who brought cats to fight rats, found himself with too many cats and brought dogs to fight the cats. Now they need elephants."