In Iraq, it is big news when a Shi'ite leader extols the virtues of Sunni fighters. But that is what happened just a few days ago, on Dec. 21, when Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shi'ite political party, offered some praise for the mostly Sunni volunteers who have been key to this year's dramatic drop in insurgent violence. "They are practicing an honorable role, they are expresing the unity of Iraqis in confronting the enemies of Iraq."
Hakim, however, mentioned them in the same breath as the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi Army and Police. And he stressed that the ultimate legitimacy of the so-called "Concerned Local Citizens" (CLC) program hinged on incorporating its members into the government's security forces. Echoing the view of the Iraqi and American governments, Hakim insisted that the program should "not be a substitute for" the Iraqi Army and Police.