The US has made a great fanfare over the handing of control of Iraq’s Anbar province to its Iraqi allies this week.
It announced that US troops will no longer stage patrols in the Sunni Muslim province that has been at the heart of resistance to the occupation since 2003.
However the 25,000 US Marines stationed in the province will not be going home.
The majority will withdraw to the huge bases the US has built on the edges of Iraqi cities. The rest will be transferred to the killing fields of Afghanistan.
The US claims that the withdrawal is a sign of its success in drawing in the so-called “Awakening Councils”. These militias are led by former resistance fighters who swapped sides following faction fighting between insurgents in 2006.
However the Awakening Councils, who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, are hostile to the Shia dominated Iraqi government.
Now the Iraqi government has issued arrest warrants for the militias. This is threatening to unravel the US strategy.
The US is desperate to disentangle its forces from the Iraqi quagmire and is under pressure to withdraw all combat troops by 2011.
Meanwhile ethnic tensions between Arabs and Kurds in the north are threatening to spiral out of control as the Iraqi army moves into areas under the control of militias loyal to the Kurdish regional authority.
In the latest incident, the Iraqi army moved into the town of Khanaqin in the eastern province of Diyala. At stake is control over the oil rich city of Kirkuk.