Falluja, revisited

Rick and I spent Saturday and Sunday in Falluja as the guests of one of the local sheiks and a leader of the Sahwa Movement. Things are much better than they have been at any time since 2004, though a conflict between the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Sahwa threatens to turn violent as provincial elections approach.

I hadn't been in the city since 2005, when the situation was — most of the city was still rubble. Much has been rebuilt, lines at checkpoints have are much shorter, and though all residents are required to have an ID badge issued by the US military, it didn't appear that the requirement was being stringently enforced at all checkpoints.

A 24-hour vehicle curfew that had been imposed on the city until six months ago has been lifted, but there is still a long way to go. The violence continues — there were two bombs on Sunday, one of which killed four policemen, and on Monday, Falluja was locked down. The emergence of the Sahwa as a political party has all sides expecting an increase of violence as the elections planned for October approach.