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Sunni Forces Losing Patience With U.S.

The U.S. military acknowledges that it is caught in the middle of a political struggle. "Yes, they are frustrated," said Lt. Col. Ricardo Love, commander of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, who works in Baqubah, the provincial capital. "They think we can make the government of Iraq do anything. We tell them we don't control the government. But they think we are the mighty power."

"The position of Americans is hesitation," said Abu Imad al-Zuhaidi, another Awakening official in Baqubah. "They don't have any independent opinion, despite the fact they know it is the Awakening who restored order."

U.S. commanders said the Awakening's strike has not affected security, but Love and others are concerned about fighters who may be tempted, or forced, to rejoin the insurgency.

"AQI and JAM will take advantage of the situation," he said, using military abbreviations for al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Mahdi Army, the country's largest Shiite militia, which is loyal to anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

In Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, concern is mounting over a U.S. proposal that calls for about 20 percent of the volunteer forces to be integrated into the nation's army and police. The rest would be provided with civilian jobs and vocational training.

"The Sunnis were always the leaders of the country. Is it reasonable that they are turned into service workers and garbage collectors?" said Khalid Jiyad Abed, an Awakening leader in the city of Latifiyah and an engineer. "We had not anticipated this from the American forces. Of course we will not accept that," Abed added.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who for the past 14 months was the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, said only 20 to 30 percent of the Awakening fighters could pass physical and written exams to enter Iraq's security forces.

"Overall, you will never satisfy everybody," Odierno said, adding that 10,000 fighters had been accepted so far.

But Awakening leaders view the plan as an attempt by the Iraqi government to marginalize them.

"This is a big failure -- either they take us all in or this is not going to work," said Brig. Gen. Shija al-Adhami, who heads the Awakening force in Baghdad's Ghazaliya neighborhood.

Sami al-Askari, an adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said recruiting too many Awakening fighters would allow al-Qaeda in Iraq to infiltrate the security forces, in much the same way Shiite militias have. But Sunni leaders warn that without the Awakening's help in securing the country, Iraq's future will be grim.

"You need these people," said Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni. "What sort of risk are you going to take if this 100 percent is stripped to 20? We cannot afford to lose all this success, which is paid by the blood of the people."

Special correspondents Zaid Sabah, Saad al-Izzi and K.I. Ibrahim in Baghdad and Washington Post staff in Diyala province, Anbar province, Najaf, Tikrit, Baiji, Kirkuk and Mosul contributed to this report.


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