The Iraq war is back on the front pages, as sectarian violence rises again in Basra and parts of Baghdad, and it remains unclear whether the Iraqi government can stop it. Suicide bombings are up, and Baghdad's Green Zone, the site of the U.S. Embassy and many Iraqi government offices, fell under rocket attack. Americans were reminded of the war's escalating cost by two grim milestones: the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion on March 19 and the U.S. military death toll's climb to 4,000.
Still, President Bush insists on "victory" and argues that his policies will succeed and "merit the sacrifice." Though the economy has displaced Iraq as Americans' top concern, the war is likely to become a hotter issue. In July, Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, apparently plans to halt troop withdrawals that started last fall, so that he can determine if Iraqi forces are strong enough to take over more of the security burden. There are about 158,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, down from a high of 165,000. Petraeus had planned to reduce the level to about 135,000. But the pause—which Petraeus is expected to announce in testimony before Congress on April 8—is likely to increase voter impatience and will intensify the debate in the presidential campaign.