Criticism Dogs Basra Battle

US influence limited in potential quagmire, fight likely to drag on: military officials
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2008 5:33 AM CDT
Mahdi Army fighters take positions in Basra, Iraq, Friday, March 28, 2008. Shiite militants clashed with government forces for a fourth day in Iraq's oil-rich south. (AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – As US troops are drawn deeper into the four-day-old Iraqi crackdown on militants in Basra,  critics see a long and difficult road ahead. While President Bush praised the operation as a "defining moment in the history of a free Iraq," military officials murmured that the battle "is going to go on for a while," CNN reports.

Iraqi security forces control less than a quarter of Basra, and militants have deeply infiltrated the city's police. US officials told the Washington Post they distrust the motives of Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki in launching the offensive, and fear this "precarious situation" will tip Iraq back into the chaotic violence of 2006 and early 2007.