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I Bagdads bydeler skjærer den sekteriske kniven gjennom nabolag, og skiller shia fra sunni. Sunni-opprørere angriper ikke lenger amerikanerne, men har mer enn nok med å forsvare seg mot shia-milits, med og uten uniform.

Sunni-militsen venter endog på at USA skal angripe Iran, og at de skal delta i angrepet på Iran. Hvilket sier mye om hvor sterke motsetningene er, og hvilke «strange bedfellows» som oppstår, i det minste i hodet på folk.

Det er the Guardians irakiske journalist, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, som har gjort en tapper reportasje. Hovedpersonen er Adel, en 26 år gammel suni fra en velstående familie, som ser ut som en rapper, men har vært «insurgent» siden amerikanerne kom.

For months Adel fought the Americans almost every day, firing RPGs and laying IEDs (improvised explosive devices). His friends mocked his enthusiasm and his talk about the need to defend his country and started calling him «The Patriot».

But it has been a few months since he has taken part in any attacks against the hated occupiers. Adel The Patriot has a new mission. He commands a Sunni vigilante group, a dozen or so men armed with Kalashnikovs and a heavy calibre machine gun, attempting, they say, to defend their area against raids and «arrests» made by Shia interior ministry commandos.

It was early afternoon when we met and he had just woken up. He doesn’t get much sleep these days. At midnight, just as the streets fall silent, Shia death squads roam the streets looking for prey. Adel and his group sit outside and wait. Most of the streets in Yarmouk are barricaded by bits of metal, palm tree trunks, boxes, bricks and cinder blocks. Streets are cut off to make a maze that only local people know how to negotiate.
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«Look, a full-scale civil war will break out in the next few months. The Kurds only care about their independence. We the Sunnis will be crushed – the Shia have more fighters and they are better organised, and have more than one leadership. They are supported by the Iranians. We are lost. We don’t have leadership and no one is more responsible for our disarray than [Abu Musab al-] Zarqawi, may God curse him,» he said.

The logic of Adel The Patriot’s new sectarian struggle against the Shia is driving him and his fellow Sunnis into radical new directions. Asked what will save the Sunnis, he replies almost instinctively.

«Our only hope is if the Americans hit the Iranians, and by God’s will this day will come very soon, then the Americans will give a medal to anyone who kills a Shia militiaman. When we feel that an American attack on Iran is imminent, I myself will shoot anyone who attacks the Americans and all the mujahideen will join the US army against the Iranians.

«Most of my fellow mujahideen are not fighting the Americans at the moment, they are too busy killing the Shia, and this is only going to create hatred. If someone kills one of my family I will do nothing else but kill to avenge their deaths.»

Most of the Shia in Yarmouk and other Sunni areas have left and their young people have now joined the Shia militias. So what would Adel do to stop the cycle of violence? «If I have some money I will pay regular salaries to my men, buy three black Opel cars [the preferred assassination car in Baghdad]. We will kidnap members of Badr brigade [the main Shia militia], we will kill some and get ransom on the other and the ransom money will finance more operations and I can have my own mujahideen faction.»

Later he and two friends explain how to distinguish a Sunni from a Shia. One of the friends says: «The Shia are darker. Sunnis have coloured eyes. Shia foreheads are smaller. Sunnis walk with arms away from the body. It’s so easy: look at that man, the way he is walking he is obviously a Sunni.»

Etter å ha lest denne reportasjen må man spørre: hvilken innvirkning vil en åpen krig mellom shia og sunni i Irak ha på forholdet mellom de to gruppene i resten av den arabiske verden, og i land som Pakistan, hvor det allerede er sammenstøt og bomber?

Inside Iraq’s hidden war
As a new ‘national unity’ government prepares to take power in Baghdad, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reports from behind the lines of a vicious sectarian conflict rapidly spiralling towards civil war