News On Iran & Its NeighboursIraqFadel: Baghdad Sunni citadel against 'Iranian invaders'

Fadel: Baghdad Sunni citadel against ‘Iranian invaders’

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AFP: Life is slowly returning to normal in the miserable grimy streets of Baghdad’s Fadel district, heartland of Iraq’s Sunni “resistance.” BAGHDAD (AFP) — Life is slowly returning to normal in the miserable grimy streets of Baghdad’s Fadel district, heartland of Iraq’s Sunni “resistance.”

But behind a facade of normality, the will of the mujahedeen (holy warriors) to stand against any “invasion of the Iranian agents” — Shiite militia — remains evident, auguring ill for the reconciliation sought by so many Iraqis.

For four years, as insurgents and supporters of Al-Qaeda, the mujahedeen defended this enclave in the heart of historic Baghdad, encircled by Shiite districts.

Fadel today remains under their control, although they have reached a deal with their American enemy of yesterday to turn their guns against Al-Qaeda, and setting up an “Awakening” militia force like those in other Sunni zones.

“While we were occupied fighting the Americans, Iran’s agents profited to extend their grip in all the area around Fadel,” Abu Mohammed, head of the militia, tells AFP.

The militia leader, in his 40s, his slim moustache carefully trimmed and a keffiyeh bound around his forehead, receives visitors in a sombre room of a mosque used for sufi ceremonies in the heart of Fadel’s labyrinthine streets.

“In the face of the Iranian threat, we reached an accord with the Americans,” says the former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army. “They provide us with certain services, and in exchange their soldiers can move freely in the district.

“We now share the same objective: to fight the Iranian (pro-Shiite) militia, says Abu Mohammed.

Iraqi police and troops, suspected of “sectarianism,” are persona non grata in Fadel. There is not a single Iraqi uniform visible there, with Abu Mohammed’s plainclothes militiamen patrolling the streets.

Concrete roadblocks, festooned with Iraqi flags, guard crossroads marking the entry points to Fadel, with militia mounting guard, checking vehicles and shouting at any strangers.

Proud of having repulsed almost-daily assaults by the Mahdi Army Shiite militia — observing since August a ceasefire ordered by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — the militia claim they have also got rid of their former Al-Qaeda allies.

But the denizens of Fadel are paying dearly for their independence. Municipal workers no longer enter the district, and residents must organise not only schools but all other services.

“We get no help, not a single service from this government of imposters,” charges Abu Mohammed.

In the muddy alleyways, littered with rubbish, flea-ridden children lark around among the legs of their black-veiled mothers. Almost all the mud brick houses, some of them more than 100 years old, bear the marks of machinegun fire.

Piles of rubbish amid ruined walls signal the old demarcation line, but the territory of “Fadel Awakening” now extends beyond this frontier of filth into the Shiite zones of Sadrya, Abu Syafin, Dahana, Mutanabi and part of Baghdad’s celebrated Al-Rashid avenue.

Mutanabi, renowned for its book markets, was taken over by the Iraqi army on Wednesday after brief clashes during which two Awakening members were arrested, according to an Awakening source.

“Our battle against Iranian agents continues,” says Abu Mohammed, who rejects any thought that his men should be integrated with the security forces. “We’re waiting to see what happens with this sectarian government.”

As for the Americans, “if they choose to go back to the past, we will fight them as we did for four years,” he says. “They know us and know of what we are capable.”

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