Working with a U.S.-funded Sunni guard force can be a lot like dealing with the mob. Some of the armed men act like the dons of their neighborhood.
By Alexandra Zavis
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
".....Eight months ago, some of them may have been planting bombs themselves, or firing rounds at passing American convoys. But on this night, they grabbed hands and stomped their feet in a traditional line dance as a U.S. foot patrol stopped to watch.
Residents credit cooperation between the American soldiers and the dancing gunmen, members of a U.S.-funded Sunni neighborhood guard force, for a turnaround in security in Adhamiya, a Sunni Arab enclave in Shiite-dominated east Baghdad that until recently was on the front line of the Iraqi capital's sectarian war.
But doing business with the gunmen, whom the U.S. military has dubbed Sons of Iraq, is like striking a deal with Tony Soprano, according to the soldiers who walk the battle-blighted streets, where sewage collects in malodorous pools.
"Most of them kind of operate like dons in their areas," said 2nd Lt. Forrest Pierce, a platoon leader with the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. They shake down local businessmen for protection money, seize rivals for links to the insurgency and are always angling for more men, more territory and more power.
For U.S. soldiers on the beat, it means navigating a complex world of shifting allegiances, half-truths and betrayals......."