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U.S. forces to hand over hard-won Anbar Province

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What's more, bitter internal rivalries are simmering. And power struggles between the newly empowered tribal chieftains and political parties, such as the Islamic Party, risk becoming more violent, particularly in the run-up to provincial elections tentatively scheduled for October.

The Islamic Party's Fallujah headquarters were rigged with five bombs earlier this month that blew off the roof.

"The situation is bad. Al Qaeda is waiting for any breach. We also do not know what America wants: will it hand us more powers or does it want to stay longer under the guise of something or another," says Muhammad Yassin, a local party official, standing in the midst of the remaining wreckage.

The handover of security basically means that Iraqis are supposed to be in the lead when it comes to planning and executing security operations. Iraqi troops will continue to be backed by US forces. The process has already taken place in nine of Iraq's 18 provinces.

Another handover was scheduled to take place Monday in the mainly Shiite
province of Qadisiyah, south of Baghdad, but the ceremony was cancelled due
to weather.

But here, even some of the local officials working closest with the Americans see the handover as mainly ceremonial.

"The handover is without substance, the true handover happens when they leave Iraq," says Sheikh Hamid al-Zobaie, a member of Fallujah's city council who hails from one of eastern Anbar's most prominent tribes.

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