The Financial Times is reporting residents of the suburb of Hay Al Ansar, on the outskirts of Najaf, were glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein’s government when US forces seized the city last week.
But they appear to be just as terrified, if not more so, of their new rulers a little-known Iraqi militia backed by the US special forces and headquartered in a little compound nearby.
The Iraqi Coalition of National Unity appeared in the city last week riding on US special forces vehicles. Residents say the coalition is now stealing, looting and terrorizing their neighborhood.
Meanwhile the struggle between the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon over Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi’s role in the post-invasion occupation of Iraq continues.
A new report by the CIA claims that Chalabi has little backing among the Iraqi people and would not be an effective leader to replace Saddam Hussein.
Despite strong objections by the State Department, the U.S. military airlifted Chalabi and 700 of his men to southern Iraq on Sunday, giving the INC a head start over other Arab opposition groups in establishing a political presence under U.S. protection.
Chalabi and his men remain at an abandoned Iraqi air defense base near the southern city of Nasiriyah. Some officials have interpreted this as a bid by the U.S. armed forces to keep them out of trouble.
The CIA has also blamed Chalabi for predicting Iraqis would welcome American troops in the initial phases of the invasion.
- Lamis Andoni, independent journalist who has been covering the Middle East for 20 years. She has reported for the Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times, and the main newspapers in Jordan.