09/17/2007, 00.00
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Shia leaders in favour of US alliance against extremism

Shia Tribal leaders might adopt Anbar Sunni tribal leaders’ anti-al-Qaeda strategy to fight Shia militias in Wasit province. The plan would include setting up tribal brigades made up of young men armed by Baghdad and trained by the US, who would, among other things, patrol the border with Iran, but it remains on the drawing board.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Shia tribal leaders in Iraq are contemplating an alliance with the US and Baghdad against extremists along the anti-al-Qaeda model established by Sunni tribal leaders in Anbar province.

Sheik Majid Tahir al-Magsousi, the leader of the Migasees tribe here in Wasit province, acknowledged that tribal leaders have discussed creating a brigade of young men trained by the Americans to bolster local security as well as help patrol the border with Iran.

He also said that last week's assassination of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who spearheaded the Sunni uprising against al-Qaida in Anbar province, only made the Shia tribal leaders more resolute.

But it is too early to know whether the Anbar model can be extended to other provinces.

Wade Weems, head of a Provincial Reconstruction Team, is leading the dialogue in the Wasit province southeast of Baghdad.

The tribal brigade would be “an anti-militia movement . . . [against] Shiite extremists of all stripes,” he said. but this “is a very different province and a very different dynamic and we're not going to just adopt lock, stock and barrel another province's model and impose it here,” he added.

A tribal council called ‘Anbar Awakening’ was created in Anbar province in order to uproot the ‘Islamic State of Iraq,’ an insurgent organisation operating in that province.

In Wasit the goal is to end the violence among Shia militias vying for power and control of oil resources as well stop the flow of men and weapons from Iran.

Iraqi Army Captain Majid al-Imara, who would be responsible for establishing the new force, said each battalion will be made up of 350 men chosen by tribal leaders, armed and equipped by the Iraqi government and paid US$ 300 monthly.

Tribal volunteers will initially act as an “"auxiliary police force,” Weems said. But then a decision would have to be made about integrating them “into one branch of the Iraqi security forces, be it the army, the police or the border patrol.”

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