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Iraq's neighborhood councils are vanishing

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An official at the Research Triangle Institute says that councils still exist and are active in safer regions of Iraq, while others in the areas where insurgents have been most active may exist in name only.

THE Sheikh Maruf council fared a little better, with only one councilor, Mohammed Munthur Kadoori, killed, mostly because its members decided to disband shortly after his murder. The brother of another councilor, Shaker Jaffar, was also killed.

Khadim al-Fukeki, a Maruf councilor and a true believer in the process, says he doesn't regret involvement in the failed experiment. "I don't blame the Americans for this - they weren't the ones sending us the threatening letters, or who have turned the neighborhood into a killing zone,'' says Mr. Fukeki. "That's the fault of the Wahabbis, the extremists."

"Rahim believed in this with all his heart,'' says Zaid Khalaf, one of Rahim's six surviving brothers and also a former member of the Hay Somer council. "When Saddam fell, Rahim had a chance to leave Iraq and open a business in the Gulf. But he said he wanted to stay and do great things, things that people would talk about and thank him for."

In a series of interviews with the Monitor last year, Rahim's optimism never wavered, but he grew increasingly disillusioned, or perhaps realistic, about the help the US could provide. Anonymous death threats were mounting, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to budge Iraq's resurgent bureaucracy.

"We're trying to do everything we can,'' Rahim said in May. "But we have limited funds and almost no formal authority. And there's been no progress on security. Without security, we have nothing."

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