WASHINGTON - President Bush on Saturday kept up his pre-election offensive on Iraq despite a new Pentagon report describing a deteriorating security situation there.Sistani said on Friday that he can no longer control his followers and blamed the Iraqi government.
Initial results from a new U.S.-Iraqi campaign to improve the security situation in Baghdad are encouraging, Bush said, and insurgents have failed to drive Iraq into full-blown civil war.
"Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country."
The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.Yes Virginia, it is a Civil War
Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.
"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."
It is a devastating blow to the remaining hopes for a peaceful solution in Iraq and spells trouble for British forces, who are based in and around the Shia stronghold of Basra.