Several weeks ago, the struggle for local power between the Anbar Salvation Council and the Islamic Party seemed to be coming to a head. The ASC demanded that the councils controlled by the Islamic Party be dissolved within two weeks, or else it would drive the Islamic Party out by force. The Islamic Party responded by obtaining a warrant for the arrest of Ali Hatem Sulayman and Hamid al-Hayess, the two ASC leaders making the public threats. And then the story sort of disappeared. That deadline is coming due right about now - so is an outbreak of Sunni-Sunni violence imminent?
Thus far it hasn't happened; yesterday's deadline passed without incident (though elsewhere, Ali Hatem extended the deadline to Sunday). Al-Hayat quotes officials on both sides as concerned about an escalation of violence in the next few days, but generally ruling out a resort to violence. Yehya al-Akashi, an Islamic Party official from Falluja, ruled out the possibility of armed conflict. He claimed that the threats by Hatem and Hayess had been personal matters not supported by the Sunni tribes or masses, who continued to support their elected officials, and that their resort to threat of violence demonstrated their political failure. An Awakening Council leader disputes the claims to political influence, but supports Akashi's contention that Hatem and Hayess had spoken only for themselves and did not have the backing of the Awakenings more broadly. On the other hand, the article quotes an Anbar Salvation Council member claiming that the tribes and masses do support Hatem and Hayess, and that the ASC's success against al-Qaeda has earned it the right to power within the council.
Ali Hatem revealed in an interview (unsurprisingly) that the U.S. and the Iraqi government had been mediating, and trying to convince both sides to resolve their differences through dialogue rather than violence. I expect the mediation to succeed for now, since neither side's interests are really served by violence... for now. The fact that Hatem is giving interviews suggests that he isn't going to be arrested, and the fact that the deadline has passed without violence suggests that a bluff has been called. But at the same time, the fact that it came to this point suggests that political relations in the province are tense and getting tenser. These are the kinds of conflicts that everyone hopes the provincial elections to resolve - if they can ever actually be held, and if they deliver the "correct" results. But this is definitely a situation to keep a close eye upon.