With U.S. soldiers’s protection, Gov. Raad Rashid al-Tamimi, a Shiite, sat atop a desk in a dilapidated schoolhouse early last week and goaded a dozen of Guba’s tribal elders to join a reconciliation effort that has so far enticed 19 of the province’s 26 major tribes. A day later, a suicide bomber ravaged another such reconciliation meeting in al-Tamimi’s hometown of Baqouba, killing at least 15 people and lightly wounding the 52-year-old governor, who was believed to be the target. Two U.S. soldiers were wounded. Such is the ebb and flow of reconciliation and violence in Diyala province, a battered landscape of warring tribes, fertile valleys and pockets of al-Qaida fighters. The sectarian and tribal chasms are wide here, and elected officials – who are mostly Shiite – cannot safely travel the province’s sectarian patchwork. “The governor wouldn’t come here alone, and I wouldn’t let him. This has been a very dangerous place,” said Col. David Sutherland, the top U.S. commander in Diyala, who escorted al-Tamimi on his weekend tour along with about 20 U.S. soldiers. Despite threats on his life, American forces have stepped up pressure on al-Tamimi to unite tribal leaders, after a series of military offensives launched this summer sought to clear the province of al-Qaida in Iraq militants. WAR: Efforts to pacify Diyala province make progress despite attacks on the region’s leader. By Lauren Frayer THE ASSOCIATED PRESS GUBA, Iraq – A convoy of strangers rumbled into this quiet Sunni village on a riverbed north of Baghdad, their armored vehicles enveloping the town in a cloud of dust. Peeking out from mud brick homes, suspicious residents tried to get a glimpse at the intruders. It was their governor – a man this poor farming village had never seen in his nearly three years in office. The U.S. blames the terrorist group for exacerbating tribal fights in the province, where dozens of U.S. soldiers have died in a bid to pacify tribal conflict and chase out or kill foreign fighters linked with al-Qaida. Thousands of U.S. and Iraqi forces stormed the provincial capital of Baqouba in June, targeting suspected militant cells and sending civilians into hiding for weeks during the fighting. Three months later, traffic floods the downtown area, where bags of fresh bread are piled high outside newly reopened food markets. Construction workers stack cement blocks to repair a house pockmarked with bullets. U.S. military officials say they want to capitalize on these signs of progress by engaging tribal leaders who were too scared to come forward before. Nearly 1 million of Diyala’s 1.6 million residents are followers of sheiks who have signed a U.S.-sponsored reconciliation agreement in recent months, U.S. military officials said. But policing the pledge is difficult, and U.S. officials acknowledge that some sheiks may renounce violence in front of U.S. commanders but succumb to sectarian pressure afterward. In Diyala, the challenge is not only to get Sunnis to deny al-Qaida refuge in their ranks. It is also to unite Sunni and Shiite factions that have fought generations-long battles that were made worse by the U.S.-led war and influx of foreign fighters. “Reconciliation here has to penetrate tribe, sect, family and geography,” Sutherland said. “These are the fault lines, and they’re much more complex here.” 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!