CAIRO—Late at night, when he can't sleep, the Iraqi general paces past the dimly lighted model homes and construction sites of his Cairo neighborhood. He avoids the main streets, crammed with shopping malls and restaurants. He doesn't want to run into other Iraqis. He has enemies.
He slips back in after 1 a.m., careful not to disturb his wife, children and grandchildren. But still he can't drift off. It will be close to dawn when finally he shuts his eyes, after exhausting himself thinking about how he will protect his family, how long his money will last. How he fell so far and ended up banished by the Iraqi government and forgotten by the Americans.
Some call Daini an honorable officer who sacrificed for his country. Others brand him a coward who accommodated Shiite militias and Sunni fighters alike.
In today's Iraq, where nothing is black and white and motives are inscrutable, the answer may be somewhere in between. Even with fresh talk of reconciliation in his homeland, the 59-year-old has no hopes of returning: He saw too much as the country slid into civil war.
"I joined the old army and the new," he said, "and lost both."
Daini watched the U.S. tanks and soldiers stream into Baghdad in April 2003. As an army veteran, he had been ordered by Hussein's Baath Party to help lead his neighbors in resisting the Americans, but as soon as he saw their tremendous firepower, Daini recognized it as a lost cause.
He had fought in the 1980-88 war with Iran, and his reputation as a commander was sterling. But he was forced into retirement in July 1990, a month before Hussein's ill-fated Kuwait invasion, after it was discovered that his brother had joined the Badr Brigade, an armed Shiite group then based in Iran that was dedicated to the overthrow of the Sunni-dominated regime in Baghdad.
"Daini was a big name," recalled a Shiite politician who knew him in the Hussein years. Like others, he agreed to speak about Daini only on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the events in which Daini was involved. "He was a person who was independent, who did not follow a party or political direction."
Retired, Daini dabbled in real estate and ran a farm south of Baghdad. But he was a soldier. The army was in his blood. "How can you be at home when the nation needs a man to protect it?" he said.
After the fall of Hussein, everyone was watching him -- insurgents and Iraqi officials. He was among the elite of the old Iraqi military, and he couldn't stay neutral. People knew he would have to either join the nation's new order or his old army comrades in the insurgency. The alternative was to risk being killed -- whether by gunmen affiliated with Shiite political parties or the so-called resistance. Within months, some Iraqi politicians had approached him and asked whether he would serve in the new U.S.-backed army.
"I thought it was appropriate for me to go back," Daini said.
He reported for duty in January 2004. On the job, he and other officers started to counsel the Americans on how they should change their behavior. Civilians complained that U.S. soldiers pushed women and the elderly and locked up the wrong people on false tips. Daini recommended measures for searching houses and avoiding confrontation.
"I thought I was setting Iraq on the right path."
His move was viewed as betrayal by former commanders who had joined the insurgency. Asked about Daini, one former general snapped, "Don't talk to me about Jawad Rumi. Nobody does what he did."
In October 2004, Daini established the 2nd Brigade of the 6th Division in east Baghdad, a territory encompassing the Sunni enclave of Adhamiya, which harbored Sunni insurgents, and Sadr City, the teeming slum where Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi Army militia held sway.
Daini prayed at both Sunni mosques and Shiite mosques to show that he represented all Iraqis. He perched children on his lap and read them stories. No one knew whether he was Shiite or Sunni. He consciously kept people in the dark about his sect.
"His biggest strength was he was a patriot," a senior U.S. officer who worked closely with Daini told The Times. "He held himself above any ethnocentric focus. He was in it for Iraq to be a stable nation."