The US-led occupation of Iraq lurched further into the quagmire last week as the coalition body count crossed the 2,000 mark.
A resistance operation near the north western Iraqi city of Haditha killed 14 US Marines on Wednesday of last week.
A troop carrier was hit by a huge roadside bomb.
Two days previously six US Marine snipers were ambushed and killed by guerillas in Haditha.
Military commentators say the increased intensity and sophistication of the latest resistance attacks mark a new phase in the insurgency.
Meanwhile there are signs that the occupation is losing its grip even on areas where it previously had not faced active opposition.
Police opened fire on protesters in the southern city of Samawah last Sunday — a Shia city that has until now seen little or no resistance activity.
One demonstrator was killed and more than 75 wounded.
Over 1,000 protesters had gathered outside government offices in Samawah, calling for improved water and electricity supplies and an end to unemployment.
The demonstration, which was initially peaceful, was one of a series organised by anti-occupation Shia clerics in the area.
The Iraqi government sent a delegation of politicians to the city on Monday to try to calm public anger.
Samawah is policed by Australian and Japanese troops, and is controlled by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), a largely pro-occupation Shia organisation with close ties to Iran.
Gunmen fired rocket propelled grenades at Sciri’s offices on Monday. Many residents hold Sciri politicians responsible for the city’s third summer in a row without reliable water or electricity services.
The US’s deteriorating hold on Iraq comes amid increased qualms among the US ruling class over the occupation. Negotiations over a new Iraqi constitution have brought factional wrangling and there is widespread talk of the country sliding into civil war.
Richard Sklar, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, last week described the occupation as a “disaster”.
Some 61 percent of Americans now disapprove of George Bush’s handling of the war, according to a poll commissioned by Newsweek magazine.
The Bush administration is responding with its usual pattern of denial and obstinacy.
On Wednesday of last week Bush again rejected demands that he set a date for the withdrawal of troops, insisting that coalition forces were “making progress”.
Some 100 Iraqi academics, journalists and religious leaders opposed to the occupation of Iraq met in Beirut, Lebanon, at the end of July for a symposium organised by the Centre for Arab Unity Studies.
The conference participants issued a statement calling for the establishment of an Iraqi national front for liberation and democratic reconstruction.
“We aspire to a front that is inclusive of all the patriotic, Islamic and leftist movements, groups and individuals… that covers the whole of Iraq’s territory [and] represents all the strata and components of our people, Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and minorities, and aims to guarantee their legitimate aspirations,” the statement reads.
It adds, “We hail the patriotic forces that are leading the valiant armed resistance to the occupation, and are hoisting the banner of Iraq high and its soul intact.
“We hail, too, the other patriotic forces that daily confront one of the most brutal occupiers known in history and are sparing no blood or sacrifice in this historic confrontation.”
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