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Iraq, five years on - an uneasy calm

Latest update : 2008-02-22

Watch the exclusive 26-minute report from our reporters Lucas Menget and Guillaume Martin. They travelled across Iraq for a month and report on the fragile truce between the US military and their former insurgent enemies.

Read Lucas Menget's reporter's notebook.


Since the US-led coalition invaded Iraq five years ago, Baghdadis have lived divided, walled up, and under surveillance.



Relative calm in Baghdad


At Al Dora, a southern district of Baghdad, a heavily backed-up Iraqi police superintendent inspects the walls that have been built on each side of the street, dividing the neighbourhood into Sunni and Shia areas. During daytime, the town is calm; but at night, the US army shells al-Qaeda weapons caches.


Further north, in the Adamiyah neighbourhood, police and army patrols have been replaced by Al Sahwa (or Awakening) Sunni militiamen who control the area. Some of them are former insurgents. Having freshly joined US forces, they boast they have been able to rid the area of al-Qaeda fighters. Al Sahwa militants are precious strategic allies but their loyalty has yet to be tested.



A relationship of trust


From their base at Taji, US soldiers drive out on reconnaissance patrols in their Strykers, armoured vehicles specially designed for the war in Iraq.


They try to foster a relation of trust with tribal leaders and Iraqi policemen. Yet despite their efforts, US forces have trouble overcoming rivalries between militiamen and tribal chiefs. It’s difficult to know who is in charge of security in the neighbourhoods of Baghdad.


The new US strategy has nevertheless raised hope for Iraq, though the US decision to arm and pay former enemies is a risky bet.



The two brothers of Fallujah


The city of Fallujah has seen it all. Following the US invasion and the civil war, this Sunni stronghold – once considered one of the most dangerous cities in the country – has somewhat calmed down.


The city’s police chief appears now appears to be in control. He patrols the streets – backed up by an escort – and mingles with the residents. Here, everything is in short supply. Whole neighbourhoods go without electricity and drinkable water is sometimes hard to get. In the hospitals of Fallujah, rooms are often crowded and medical supplies are lacking.


But it’s really Abu Maroof, the superintendent’s brother, who runs the show. He leads 13,000 militiamen, many of whom were al-Qaeda militants. After fighting the Americans, they struck a deal with their former foes and joined the Al Sahwa militias.


The Sunni tactical move nevertheless comes at a cost. The Al Sahwa militiamen are waiting for some sort of recognition from the US, the Iraqi government and its Shia majority. They want to regain some of the power lost when Saddam Hussein was toppled. They are waiting for results. But they will not wait long.


Watch the full report by clicking 'Play Video' above.

Date created : 2008-02-20