The top civilian administrator in Iraq says coalition opponents are attacking more Iraqis than coalition troops in response to stepped up U.S. military action against insurgents. Speaking jointly with the commanding general of the U.S. Central Command, Paul Bremer told reporters in Baghdad that coalition opponents have begun a fierce counter-offensive to a two-week old U.S. military effort to crush the insurgency in Iraq.
"The security situation has changed," said Mr. Bremer. "In the past, attacks against the coalition were predominant. Now, terrorist attacks against the Iraqis are regular."
Two weeks ago, U.S. forces, using weapons normally deployed against armies, launched a number of operations in Baghdad and areas north and west of the capital to destroy insurgent hideouts and demoralize the opposition.
Central Command chief General John Abizaid says the operations have helped significantly decrease the number of daily attacks against coalition troops, but attacks against Iraqis have increased.
"I think the number of attacks probably is not the measure," said General Abizaid. "It is the severity of the attacks which is significant. I mean, they are despicable terrorist attacks designed only to terrorize people and intimidate them in a way that absolutely cannot be excused."
General Abizaid and Mr. Bremer were referring to a string of recent attacks, including last week's deadly suicide car bombings at two Iraqi police stations northeast of Baghdad and attempted assassinations of political and community leaders who work with the coalition.
Mr. Bremer warns that anti-coalition violence may continue for another six to seven months, as the coalition begins the process of handing power over to an Iraqi transitional government.
On Monday, the U.S. appointed Governing Council submitted a timetable for self-rule to the U.N. Security Council. In a letter, Governing Council members said that a provisional legislature would be chosen by May 31 of next year and a provisional government in place by the end of June.
Mr. Bremer says the plan for choosing a legislative body will produce a much more broadly representative government than the current 25-seat Governing Council.