Nuri Al-Maliki met tribal leaders on September 27 and again on October 6 to work out a strategy to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq.

"We should accomplish three missions in Anbar governorate to achieve peace," he told a gathering of tribal leaders.

"We seek formation of a local government, releasing of funds to rebuild the province, and getting back the authority of the police and army in the district."

The desire to halt the violence has not fallen on deaf ears.

"We want to exit from the sea of blood," said Saeed Abed, an employee in Hiyt city.

"We suffered enough from the destruction; our province became a jungle ruled by the law of the guns and the legislation of the armed groups," said Abed, who lost two of his brothers in violent events since the US invasion.

Violence increasing

But with continuing attacks against civilians, Iraqi forces, and US military personnel, many are beginning to doubt whether the government is capable of fulfilling its stated purpose of combating terrorism and increasing stability throughout the country.

Khalil Ibrahim, however, believes the central Baghdad government has come up short time and again in effectively ridding Anbar province of foreign fighters.

"We heard a lot from the Americans and successive Iraqi governorates that they arrest hundreds of al-Qaeda men in Anbar and other places in Iraq," said Ibrahim an electrical engineer in Hiyt.

"But the number of these fighters is increasing daily".

Minor representatives
 
A former Iraqi intelligence officer believes the challenge in curbing violence may lie in the fact that the tribal leaders are not fully representative of the people in Anbar.

"There is no agreement among the tribes in Anbar to fight the foreign gunmen," he told Aljazeera.net.

"The chieftains who attended the meetings with al-Maliki represent small tribes in the province and many of them reside outside Iraq for fear of assassination and so on."

He believes the tribal leaders who met with al-Maliki have little clout over armed groups in western Iraq.

Al-Maliki's reconciliation efforts
may be influencing some fighters

Furthermore, some of the armed groups are distrustful of the tribal leaders, claiming they were American collaborators.

In recent weeks, accusations of treachery have erupted in full-scale conflict between numerous armed groups, with some tribes arresting and executing al-Qaeda in Iraq members.

But al-Maliki’s reconciliation efforts may be influencing some Iraqi groups to at least consider negotiating a settlement.

Last week, one of the groups, calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq resistance movement indicated it was willing to enter negotiations with the US military provided some as yet undisclosed conditions were met.

Growing disconnect

Analysts say the willingness for one of the most active resistance groups to negotiate with the US military and bypass the Iraqi government indicates there is a growing disconnect and distrust between al-Maliki's mainly Shia cabinet and the country's armed Sunni groups.

The political deadlock is paling in comparison to the routine of violence, however.

Ramadan, usually a month of piety, has proven yet again since 2003 to be one of the bloodiest in loss of both Iraqi and US lives.

Entire towns in Anbar continue to live under blockades, curfews and martial law.

US troops have effectively sealed off the western towns of Haditha, Aloos, Al-Buhaya, Rawa, Ana, Falluja, Ramadi and Hiyt in search of armed groups and weapons caches.