An Iraqi Civil War?
Debate over the state of the U.S. occupation of Iraq remains intense amid concern that the war cannot be won. Fears of a civil war have heightened after an increase in sectarian violence since the February bombing of a Shia Muslim mosque in Samarra.
Civil war is defined as a "war between geographical sections or political factions of the same nation," according to Webster's New World College Dictionary.
So has civil war actually erupted in Iraq? Below NOW looks at some opinions and perspectives from world leaders, journalists and the American people.
The Bush Administration
President Bush insists that civil war has not broken out in Iraq but says there will be tough fighting ahead and that troops will remain there until after 2008.
"Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war," Bush said on March 21, 2006.
Bush and his senior advisors maintain that the U.S. is making progress toward stabilizing Iraq and defusing sectarian tensions.
John Reid, British Defense Secretary
During a visit to Baghdad in March the British Defense Secretary said sectarian violence is worsening.
"I don't think any of us would deny that [sectarian violence] is a problem, but not a problem to the degree that we think civil war is imminent or inevitable," he said on March 18, 2006.
Iyad Allawi, the former Interim Iraqi Prime Minister
The senior Iraqi political leader has been a staunch ally to the U.S but his recent comments saying that Iraq is in the midst of civil war certainly ruffled some feathers.
"If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is," Allawi said in an interview aired on March 19, 2006.
Allawi added that the country may not have yet reached the "point of no return."
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq
The US ambassador to Iraq has said that continuing sectarian violence there had the potential to turn into civil war.
"There is a concerted effort to provoke civil war," Khalizad said on March 6, 2006. He indicated that the U.S. had little choice but to keep a strong military presence in Iraq.
The United Nations
The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has grown increasingly concerned about the situation in Iraq. Violence has reached new heights as "repeated bombings against civilians, mosques and more recently against churches are creating fear, animosity and feelings of revenge within the communities," Annan said on March 7, 2006. As a result the UN's hopes of returning to Iraq remain on hold.
The top UN envoy in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, urged Baghdad to form a new government "in an alarmingly deteriorating security situation in Iraq," he said on March 27, 2006.
The American public
Americans have become more skeptical and pessimistic about the situation in Iraq according to recent polls. A March 2006 Pew Research Center poll found that 66 percent of Americans said the United States was losing ground in preventing a civil war in Iraq, a jump of 18 percent since January.
John F. Burns, the New York Times Baghdad bureau chief, has said that the failure of the American effort in Iraq "now seems likely" a day after his return from Baghdad in March. Burns was asked if he believed civil war was developing in Iraq. "It has been for some time," he said, adding that it's just a matter of "scale."
Washington Post reporter, Steve Fainaru, who recently spent 14 months in Iraq, said in February 2006 that "...Iraq is teetering on the brink of civil war", while defending the media's coverage of the conflict.