A year ago, Mola Bakhtiyar wrapped the cummerbund of the Kurdish Peshmerga warrior around his waist and prepared to fight Saddam Hussein's army, eventually capturing his home town of Khaneqin, with American help. Today, the Kurdish warrior and politician is gearing up for a political fight to keep the spoils of the war, to retain control of as much 'Kurdish' land as possible. 'The western mentality can't understand our mentality, that my suffering is much greater than the person who came to live in my house,' he said. US war plans for Iraq depend on the participation of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurds and acquiescence of its Shia majority. But a year later, US partners' demands for cultural, economic and political power threaten to alienate Iraq's other groups and destabilise the country. As the US occupation forces prepare for the June 30 handover of power, Iraqis themselves have begun jockeying for a long struggle of a different kind: to define the future Iraq. At the heart of the conflict are basic questions about what it means to be an Iraqi, what common denominators tie together the 25 million people. Sometimes the battle to shape that identity plays out peacefully in Iraq's Governing Council, where 25 politicians bully, cajole and compromise with one another over Iraq's future. At other times, the battleground is the Iraqi streets, where the spectre of sectarian and ethnic violence - between Kurds, Arabs, Shia, Sunni and Turkomans - looms. In northeastern Baghdad this week, unknown assailants opened fire and tossed a grenade into the courtyard of the Sunni Badria Dulaymi mosque, just as worshippers finished evening prayers. One worshipper was killed and two injured. 'If the Shias want to fight we will fight,' said Mohammad Najid, a young Sunni outside the mosque. 'The reason we didn't get these guys in the first place is we don't have enough rifles.' Among Iraq's majority Shias, who suffered under Hussein's thumb, there's a sense that it's time to take charge of Iraq, once the US-led occupation force hands over power on June 30. Leaders are quickly attempting to form political organisations, associations and civil militias, many of which sprang up in the wake of the disorder that came with the war. 'It's time for the Shia to collect,' said Abdul Kareem Sheqeet, a member of Mahdi's Army, a Shia organisation loyal to firebrand preacher Moqtada al-Sadr. In the Shia south, militia groups fill the security vacuum left by a poorly trained and equipped Iraqi police force. Earlier this month, Kurds attacked Turkoman offices in Kirkuk, smashing windows and hurling rocks. 'Basically, Kurdish people got a lot out of the toppling of the regime,' said Bakhtiyar. 'Our problem is not whether we can survive or not. It's what more we can get.'