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Wednesday | July 30, 2003

US alters tactics, limit contact with Iraqis in Fallujah

By Steve Gilliard

After three months of near daily combat, new tactics have allowed Iraqis and Americans to coexist in Fallujah.

Alarmed at attacks by angry relatives, U.S. Army officers in Fallujah did something unusual for the American military but common in rural Iraq. In an effort to ease the desire for revenge, they delivered formal apologies to local tribal sheiks and paid blood money for every dead and injured person deemed not to be a combatant.

The compensation payments — $1,500 for a death and $500 for an injury — are regarded by Fallujah’s political, tribal and religious leaders as one of several bold strategies employed by U.S. commanders here over the past few weeks to appease a city brimming with discontent. Officers have ordered soldiers to knock on doors before conducting most residential searches. They have also permitted the mayor to field a 75-member armed militia and doled out nearly $2 million on municipal improvements instead of waiting for private American contractors to arrive.


Instead of waiting for the police to adjust, the brigade allowed the mayor to assemble a protection force, drawn from the city’s largest tribes. Ives organized training for the group, whose members now walk around with AK-47 assault rifles and green FPF armbands.

“You have to bend with the culture,” Ives said. “In America, this would be illegal. But here, it’s natural.”

The reaction of people in the city has been cautious. Many who so ardently wanted American troops to leave now express deep reservations about the decision to allow the mayor — who was not popularly elected — to have his own militia. “This is the same thing Saddam did,” said Nadir Mukheef, the owner of a juice bar.

On one hand, this makes sense. Every time you mess with someone in town, you make people angry. But the solution could be as bad as the problem. Giving an appointed mayor his own militia is asking for trouble. It's picking sides in politics and many Iraqis are trapped between an occupying power they don't trust and locals who may use the Americans to ride to power. Since Americans don't know Iraqi politics, the short term solution may have long term problems.

Posted July 30, 2003 12:20 PM


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