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Originally published March 30, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 30, 2009 at 1:40 PM

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Iraqi crackdown targets Sunnis allied with U.S.

A moderate Sunni paramilitary leader allied with U.S. troops was detained by Iraqi forces, his deputies said Sunday, in an illustration of how the Shiite-led government has humbled a nationwide movement that emerged two years ago to help end the Iraqi insurgency.

Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD — A moderate Sunni paramilitary leader allied with U.S. troops was detained by Iraqi forces, his deputies said Sunday, in an illustration of how the Shiite-led government has humbled a nationwide movement that emerged two years ago to help end the Iraqi insurgency.

Iraqi authorities also continued their drive against supporters of another paramilitary leader, arresting at least seven of his backers and taking their weapons. Those fighters were loyal to Adel Mashadani, leader of the Sons of Iraq group in Baghdad's Fadil neighborhood, who was detained Saturday.

The arrest of Raad Ali, who helped U.S. troops stabilize the western Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliyah, came to light Sunday, five days after his deputies said the Iraqi army picked him up in a midnight raid.

Ali, a former insurgent, spoke regularly about the need for Sunnis to enter the political mainstream and leave behind their insurgency.

"What happened in 2003 happened. Then killings and displacements happened. There was no hope and no future," Ali told the Los Angeles Times last fall. "I changed my path and wanted to work with the government and the Americans. The Americans accepted me."

His tone stood in sharp contrast to that of Mashadani, who regularly accused the Shiite-led Iraqi government of working for Iran.

The arrests of Ali and Mashadani showed how much the nationwide Sunni paramilitary movement has fallen. When the former insurgents first struck alliances with U.S. forces, the hope was that the American military would help broker their entrance into the political mainstream and ensure that the fighters would be given jobs in the police or army.

Instead, some have fled into exile, and others have been arrested or slain. Those not in jail worry that they could be detained at any moment.

The Iraqi government promised to put 20 percent of the Sons of Iraq movement, estimated at more than 90,000 individuals, into security jobs. But it is estimated that only 5,000 have been hired. The fighters have been given few jobs in civilian ministries, and the Iraqi government is more than a month late in salary payments for most of Baghdad's Sons of Iraq.

The government has treated some Sunni leaders well, notably in western al-Anbar province, but others have been dealt with harshly. The U.S. military appears to be struggling to protect the men.

In Fadhil, at least seven fighters were detained Sunday, said Abdul Razzaq, one of Mashadani's deputies. The army blockaded the neighborhood with Humvees and personnel carriers. Helicopters circled overhead. Some fighters handed in their weapons after negotiations, the day after Mashadani's supporters and the Iraqi security forces clashed.

The government accused Mashadani of running a secret wing of Saddam Hussein's Baath party and his supporters of abusing their power.

"We made it clear that no one is above the law," said Mohammed Salman, head of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's national reconciliation committee.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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