"U.S. commanders say they want to wait until Iraq's new army is large enough, and trained enough, to assume a leading role in retaking the city. "It doesn't do any good for us to go in and clean it up if it's a pure United States or coalition operation," said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the top commander responsible for Fallujah and the rest of western Iraq. "We need Iraqi security forces with us. We need to be side by side when we move in, so that when it is said and done, when you open your door the next day and look out, there's an Iraqi policeman, an Iraqi National Guardsman, an Iraqi soldier on your street."
Sattler's predecessor, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway, who relinquished his command earlier this month, insisted that "the Marines we have there now could crush the city and be done with business in four days."
"But that's not what we're going to do," Conway said. Since the handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government in late June, he added, Fallujah "is an Iraqi problem. If there is an attack on the anti-Iraqi forces that inhabit the city, it will be done almost exclusively by Iraqis."
One Marine officer said the U.S. goal was "to split the city, to get the good people of the city on one side and the terrorists on the other."
In what may be the strongest sign of tension between residents and foreigners, the head of the Shura Council, Abdullah Janabi, who had invited foreigners to the city in April, issued a statement on Friday calling Zarqawi a "criminal."
"We don't need Zarqawi to defend our city," said Janabi, who sought to draw a distinction between what he called "Iraqi resistance fighters" and foreign fighters engaged in a campaign against Iraq's infrastructure, foreign civilians and Iraqi security forces. "The Iraqi resistance is something and the terrorism is something else. We don't kidnap journalists and we don't sabotage the oil pipelines and the electric power stations. We don't kill innocent Iraqis. We resist the occupation."
Zarqawi's actions, Janabi said, have "harmed the resistance and made it lose the support of people."