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Fears Iraq headed for civil war -

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Fears Iraq headed for civil war

Reporter: Jonathan Harley

KERRY O'BRIEN: With the fighting involving Lebanon, Gaza and Israel dominating the headlines from
the Middle East in recent months, the deepening bloodshed in Iraq has been somewhat overshadowed.
Last month was the bloodiest since American troops ousted Saddam Hussein more than three years ago.
And as the insurgency continues to grow, the divisions between Shia and Sunni deepen, fanning
concerns that the already serious sectarian violence will explode into all-out civil war. In a
moment, we will hear from 'Washington Post' Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Tom Ricks, whose
exhaustive review of the war and its aftermath has added to President Bush's political headache in
the lead up to the US Congressional election. But first, this Iraq update from Jonathan Harley.

JONATHAN HARLEY: May 2003, and President George W Bush effectively declares the war in Iraq To be
all but over.

GEORGE W BUSH, US PRESIDENT: In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have

JONATHAN HARLEY: More than three years on, Saddam Hussein may have been toppled and he now sits in
the dock facing a death sentence, but there's little sign of peace in Iraq. In July alone, 3,438
Iraqis were killed - the highest monthly death toll since US-led troops entered Iraq. While
insurgents continue to target coalition forces, the Pentagon has acknowledged that the rivalry
between Sunni and Shia militias threatens to descend into all-out civil war.

GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, US CENTRAL COMMAND: The sectarian violence is probably as bad as
I've seen it in Baghdad, in particular, and that if not stopped, it's possible that Iraq could move
towards civil war.

JONATHAN HARLEY: The insurgency has exacted a toll that Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard could
not. More than 2,600 troops have been killed in Iraq. When President Bush declared major combat
operations to be over, that total stood at 139. And with more than 19,000 American troops also
wounded in Iraq, the White House must confront rising concern at home. Fifty-nine per cent of
Americans think the Bush Administration is on the wrong track - mainly over Iraq. And with
congressional elections less than three months away, President Bush this week defended his Iraq
policy, while acknowledging difficulties there are straining the psyche of America.

GEORGE W BUSH: You know, it's an interesting debate we're having in America about how we ought to
handle Iraq. There's a lot of people, good decent people saying withdraw now - they're absolutely
wrong. It'd be a huge mistake for this country. If you think problems are tough now, imagine what
it would be like if the United States leaves before this government has a chance defend
herself, govern herself and listen to...answer to the will of the people.

JONATHAN HARLEY: Despite the violence, Iraq's first democratic election in decades saw a huge
turnout last December, and they were hailed around the world as a triumph. Backers of the US-led
invasion also point to the building of schools and other infrastructure as signs of success in a
troubled region.

WILLIAM KRISTOL, EDITOR, 'WEEKLY STANDARD': Everything could go terribly wrong in Iraq. And I guess
if it does, and then if we don't have the nerve to fight it through, or the ability and skill to
fight it through, or the democratic skill to persuade allies to stand with us, then everything
could fall apart. I would still, as a moral matter, think that liberating the Iraqis from Saddam
was the right thing to do.

JONATHAN HARLEY: That moral authority was seriously compromised by the Abu Ghraib prison scandal
and now, Washington faces daunting challenges in terms of perception and reality. It cannot abandon
a country ill-equipped to govern or secure itself, but nor will political reality allow coalition
forces to stay in Iraq indefinitely.