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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

This is no government


Joao Silva for The New York Times

Mamoon Sami Rashid, leader of Anbar,
Iraq’s most violent province, seems
to run a one-man government.

Stubborn Man Tries to Govern in Violent Iraq

By DEXTER FILKINS
Published: July 11, 2006

RAMADI, Iraq, July 8 — Mamoon Sami Rashid is the governor with 29 lives.
That’s the number of assassination attempts he has counted since joining the Anbar provincial government in January 2005.

“You see, over there, that is where the suicide bomber tried to kill me,” Governor Rashid said with a smile as he drove his armored S.U.V. to work. Across the road, where he was pointing, lay the charred shells of half a dozen automobiles.
“Over here,” he said after a time, pointing again, “this is where they tried to shoot me.”

Car bomb, suicide bomber, mortar, gun; in his car, in his house, in a mosque: insurgents have tried to kill Mr. Rashid so many times and in so many different ways that he has nearly lost count. But life being what it is in Ramadi, Anbar’s tumultuous capital, Mr. Rashid probably will need a few more lives to survive until his term expires this year.

“They want to kill me,” he said, spinning the wheel, “because I will not let them have power.”

Mr. Rashid stands as the measure of both the tenacity and the weakness of the American-backed government in Anbar Province, west of Baghdad. Like the battered outpost that he calls his office, Mr. Rashid hangs on even as colleagues and friends have either lost their will or, in some cases, their lives.

His predecessor, Raja Nawaf, was kidnapped and killed. His deputy, Talib al-Dulaimi, was shot to death. Khidr Abdeljabar Abbas, the chairman of the provincial council, was killed in April. Last month, the governor’s secretary was beheaded.

Mr. Rashid, 49, survives largely with — and only with — the protection of American
marines. They hold down the Government Center and escort him to and from work. They fly him around Anbar in a helicopter. Indeed, Mr. Rashid is more than just the symbol of the Anbar government; he seems the only functioning part. Most of the senior members of the government refuse to come to work or to show their faces in public.

“It’s been very, very difficult to get people to come in here,” said Col. Frank Corte Jr. of the Marines, a reservist and Texas state legislator, and an adviser to Mr. Rashid. “In May, we had a full house — mayors, directors general, contractors — and then came the attack on the governor and the beheading of his secretary. The message went out. Most of them don’t come in anymore.”

Not so for the governor. He is a hulking figure, resembling a professional wrestler. His round head, thick neck and sloping mustache — and his enormous, catcher’s-mitt hands — give him an even more imposing aura. The reality is a bit softer; Mr. Rashid is a civil engineer, a father of seven and husband to two wives.

“I’ve been an engineer for 28 years, and the people know me and respect me — I am related to many of them,” he said. “It is the criminals who don’t like me.”

The Americans hope — and so does Mr. Rashid — that the latest push to break the insurgency here will allow him and his government to begin functioning normally, and thereby achieve some measure of legitimacy among Iraqis. When that day will come, though, seems to be anyone’s guess, including Mr. Rashid’s. The guerrillas show no signs of letting up.
    • The only question is if he has 3o lives or 31.

      posted by Steve @ 2:45:00 AM

      2:45:00 AM

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