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Friday, March 28, 2008




A Turning Point

From the Washington Post March 24, 2008

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A Turning Point

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Zobaie contacted other Republican Guards and military officers. Many had lost their jobs when U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer ordered the disbanding of the Iraqi army. For the next two years, Zobaie said he was a commander in the Sunni insurgency. "Everywhere I could reach, I fought the Americans," he said. "I didn't feel well until I hit the Americans. Then I felt comfortable."

But a turning point came in 2004. U.S. troops and insurgents fought fiercely in Fallujah. Zobaie battled U.S. forces in the nearby town of Zaidan, where he grew up. By mid-2005, he had grown wary of the foreign fighters and radicals, with their brutal tactics and rigid interpretation of Islam. They banned smoking, satellite television, even Pepsi, because the prophet Muhammad never drank it. One day, Zobaie said, he was stopped at a checkpoint in Zaidan and forced by fighters to watch three men saw off another man's head with a knife.

By April 2006, Zobaie had had enough. He joined the new Iraqi army and was appointed a brigade commander. Then senior Shiite officers had him removed. When al-Qaeda in Iraq militants learned he had enlisted, they kidnapped one of his cousins, who had also joined the army. Zobaie never saw him again. Zobaie said he decided to return to fighting, but against a new enemy: "On that date, it became a public war between us and al-Qaeda."

In November, a relative who was a member of al-Qaeda in Iraq kidnapped Zobaie's brother, Ahmed, and beheaded him with a shaving razor. Zobaie found his head and body four days later. The relative disappeared. A week later, Ahmed's wife gave birth to a daughter.

Zobaie become Fallujah's police chief that December. He sent his wife and seven of his eight children to Iraq's Kurdish semiautonomous region for their safety. When it was time to select a code name to speak over police walkie-talkies, he chose "Ahmed."

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