This article is from AP.
The article points out some of the remaining problems that linger just under the surface of a relatively more peaceful situation than has existed for some time in Iraq. There are conflicts between different Sunni groups and between Sunni and Shia still and also there is no solution yet to the borders of Kurdistan or the oil law. Groups seem to be jockeying to better their position for upcoming elections scheduled for the fall.
Analysis: Security transfer stalled in Iraq region
By BRIAN MURPHY – 1 day ago
BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's government hopes to bring the entire country under its security control by year's end. But one critical area stands in the way: the western province of Anbar, where the Sunni insurgency was born and later received its first blows from a civil uprising.
The transfer from U.S. military authority in Anbar has become stalled by worries that a hasty move could tempt unrest and reopen rivalries — drawing in the same armed Sunni factions that the U.S. courted to help uproot al-Qaida in Iraq.
The cautious approach also apparently reflects a desire by Washington not to risk any new complications while Iraqi leaders tussle with a host of messy problems, including seeking agreements on holding provincial elections and opening oil fields to foreign investors.
Talks on Anbar — a vast swath stretching from near Baghdad to the western borders — have moved into the slow lane after much fanfare last month when the planned transfer to Iraqi security control was announced and then abruptly put on hold.
The biggest issue in the holdup is the fear that internal political rivalries in Anbar could escalate into open conflict without U.S. troops as a buffer.
On one side is the old-guard political leadership in Anbar, known as the Iraqi Islamic Party. The other emerging power is the Awakening Council movement — the groups that turned against al-Qaida last year and helped stir a wider Sunni backlash against the insurgency across Iraq.
The challenge is how to withdraw American control without either side feeling it is sacrificing influence or facing pressure from the Shiite-led Iraqi military forces that could step in.
The internal intrigue in Anbar is already growing. Both side are jockeying ahead of provincial elections that Iraq hopes to hold this fall.
Further rifts could provide an opening for al-Qaida to try to regain some footing in Anbar, where insurgents still manage to stage infrequent — but significant — attacks.
Last month, a group linked to al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing near Fallujah that killed more than 20 people, including three U.S. Marines and prominent sheiks who had turned against the insurgents. One of the Marines commanded the battalion in the area.
A day after the attack, the U.S. military announced the postponement in the ceremonies to handing over Anbar province to Iraqi security control. The statement said a "new date will be announced as soon as it is made available."
Iraqi officials have hinted at a date sometime after the provincial elections, which are scheduled for Oct. 1.
Sheik Abdul-Karim al-Assal, deputy head of the Anbar Awakening Council, said a security blueprint has been presented to the government. The proposal seeks to bring the Awakening groups into the official security fold.
"We have the ability of maintaining the security of the province along with Iraqi police and army after the hand over," he said.
Mouwaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser, has said negotiations on Anbar are at "a delicate stage" and cannot be rushed. Still, on Wednesday's security handover in the southern province of Qadisiyah, he said Iraqi leaders hope to have their military and police in full charge of the entire country by the end of year.
The puzzle ahead is bigger than just Anbar. Several other provinces remain under U.S. security command, including such key regions as Baghdad, the northern city of Mosul and the oil-rich area around Kirkuk.
But Anbar has deep symbolism. The urban battles in 2004 in Anbar's main cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, became rallying points for the insurgency and sent the message to Washington that there would be no quick and clean exit from Iraq.
Anbar is also the heartland of Iraq's Sunnis, who were favored under Saddam Hussein and then pushed to the margins by the Shiite majority that took over after his ouster.
The strains and suspicions aren't just within Anbar.
Brian Fishman, an expert on the Iraqi insurgency at the U.S. Military Academy, said the rising power of the Awakening Councils in Anbar — sometimes called Sons of Iraq — has helped calm the nation but unsettled the Shiite establishment that replaced Saddam.
The Awakening Council movement "controls the ground and serves the function of a local police force" in Anbar, Fishman said.
"They are resistant to (Shiite) control over them, and at the same time, the Shiite parties in Baghdad are mistrustful of the Sons of Iraq," he said.
"But," he added, "there is no way the government of Iraq can extend any meaningful power over time unless they work with the Sons of Iraq."
Brian Murphy has reported from Iraq at various stages since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
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