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President George W. Bush’s failed Iraq war, the same war he recently claimed was “being won,” is going from bad to worse as violence increases and deep rifts emerge within the country’s fragile coalitions.
As violence escalates, Bush and other supporters of the war still claim that the war can be won and that progress is being made.
But those on the ground in Iraq tell a far different story and the escalating violence and bloodshed could bring the controversial conflict back as a primary issue in this year’s already contentious Presidential elections.
Baghdad was locked down on Friday amid a weekend curfew with pedestrians and vehicles keeping off the roads after violent clashes this week between security forces and Shiite fighters.
An AFP correspondent said most of the capital’s main roads were deserted after the city’s military command imposed a curfew since Thursday night till Sunday 5:00 am (0200 GMT).
The curfew has been imposed to contain the fighting between Shiite militants and Iraqi troops, security officials told AFP.
Dozens of people have been killed in Baghdad and at least 105 countrywide in clashes since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered his troops to crack down on “lawless gangs” in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, according to official reports.
Some sources have put the toll at double that.
On Friday, Sadr City — the bastion of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — which saw brutal clashes since Tuesday, was largely calm, an AFP correspondent said.
He said relatives in Sadr City were preparing to arrange for the funerals of those killed in the clashes.
Reports The Associated Press:
Iraqi police say clashes between Shiite militants and government security forces have resumed in at least two cities south of Baghdad.
The fighting in Nasiriyah and Mahmoudiya on Friday comes as the situation is calm in Baghdad. Residents are holed up at home after a weekend curfew was imposed.
Police say four people have been killed and 14 wounded in clashes in Nasiriyah.
Anger has been growing since the Iraqi government launched a crackdown against Shiite militia violence in the southern oil port of Basra earlier this week.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers say security forces are abusing a cease-fire by his Mahdi Army militia to unfairly target them in raids.
The government says it is acting against criminal gangs.
And this from Reuters:
U.S. forces were drawn deeper into Iraq’s four day-old crackdown on Shi’ite militants on Friday, launching air strikes in Basra for the first time and battling militants in Baghdad.
The fighting has exposed a deep rift within Iraq’s majority Shi’ite community and put pressure on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose forces have failed to dislodge fighters loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr from Iraq’s second largest city.
Iraqi authorities shut down Baghdad with a strict curfew on Friday which seemed to reduce the rocket and mortar barrages that have wreaked havoc in the capital this week. Lawmakers, including those loyal to Sadr, met to seek an end to the impasse.
The government says it is fighting “outlaws,” but Sadr’s followers say political parties in Maliki’s Shi’ite-led government are using military force to marginalize their rivals ahead of local elections due by October.
The Iraqi ground commander in Basra, Major-General Ali Zaidan, told Reuters his forces had killed 120 “enemy” fighters and wounded around 450 since the campaign began.
But Reuters television footage from Basra showed masked gunmen from Sadr’s Mehdi Army still in control of the streets, openly carrying rocket launchers and machine guns.