WASHINGTON — Armed militiamen affiliated with radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr pose the gravest danger to the security and stability of Iraq, surpassing Sunni Arab insurgents and Al Qaeda terrorists, a new Defense Department report to Congress says.
The finding represents the military's strongest characterization of the danger posed by Sadr and is among the conclusions of a quarterly report to Congress that chronicles the instability in Iraq and record level of sectarian violence.
In the last three months, the number of attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops and Iraqi civilians rose 22%, and the number of U.S. casualties grew 32%, the Pentagon assessment says.
As attacks have risen, the confidence of the Iraqi people has fallen, with fewer saying in surveys that they thought their government could protect them and more agreeing that civil war was likely.
The conclusion that Sadr-related militiamen posed the chief threat to the country's security came after the U.S. military had complained for months that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite, had been unable to address armed Shiite groups and had obstructed American efforts to confront Sadr.