Yesterday, Mr Fahmi seemed calm, but was in a state of some despair. He accused both the government and Iran of supporting al-Qaeda. He said that of the 13 men he had left, he trusted only three to protect him. His political positions were extreme: he called for a return to strong-man, one-party government, only this time chosen by the Americans, so Iraq did not fall into the hands of a brute like Saddam Hussein.

As he repeatedly dived into the stairwell of his apartment, in response to an “alert”, it was hard to follow his arguments. It was a senior policeman elsewhere, in the city of Fallujah, who explained more clearly what had happened…

“We have had 135 Awakening members resign,” he said. Al-Qaeda can offer between $300 and $500 a month to turn coat, roughly twice as much as their meagre government salaries of $120 to $250.

Talking to me, the police colonel admitted for the first time something that had been rumoured in recent weeks: that sweeps of al-Qaeda suspects have started to turn up not only former Awakening recruits, but those still taking their salary. His men had arrested 10 Awakening members from Fallujah this year who were now in prison awaiting trial.