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Growing Impatience in Washington Over Iraq Situation


The latest violence in Iraq is causing deepening concern in Washington, both in the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration. Lawmakers of both parties are worried that the Iraqi government seems unable to halt the growing sectarian violence. U.S. officials are predicting impending catastrophe if the mayhem is not stopped.

The anguish and loss seem never ending.

Funerals for the victims of sectarian violence are a common sight. This week, the bodies of 60 men were found dumped in various neighborhoods of Baghdad, many bearing signs of torture.

The endless violence -- and a stubborn insurgency -- are causing deepening concern in Washington. State Department official David Satterfield sounded a grim warning during a congressional hearing Wednesday.

"If sectarian violence cannot be demonstrably, tangibly reduced, and that reduction sustained over the next several months -- an Iraq that represents all of its people, is a partner against terror and is at peace both at home and with its neighbors, will be difficult if not impossible to achieve."

He urged the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to make good on promises to end the sectarian violence by fostering political reconciliation and disarming militias. Satterfield, who is the State Department's point man on Iraq, acknowledged this will be difficult because the violence comes from all sides.

"Killing is taking place at the hands of insurgents. Killing is taking place at the hands of al-Qaida terrorists. Killing is taking place at the hands of extra governmental armed groups that have a sectarian color to them and a criminal color to them," he said.

The continued power of militias and other armed groups is undermining the chances of peace and stability in Iraq, say Washington policy makers. More U.S. lawmakers are calling for a change of course as the violence continues unabated.

Republican congressman John Duncan said at the hearing, "I think if you find out that you are going down the wrong way on the interstate, you don't just keep on going in that wrong direction. You get off at the next exit."

But Republican Christopher Shays and others disagree. "I would like to put for the record that I voted for this war. I believe it is an absolutely a noble effort, and with all my heart and soul I believe it would be a catastrophe if we were to leave prematurely."

But with Iraq's political leaders unable to agree and act on measures to stop the violence, there is clearly growing impatience in Washington over the situation.

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