Big sectarian battles in store for Iraq?

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According to the Washington Times, maybe:

Rival Shi’ite and Sunni groups are massing their militias in expectation of major confrontations, Iraqis say, even as President Bush prepares to meet today with the nation’s embattled prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

Mr. Bush’s meeting in Jordan is part of a wider attempt to involve Iraq’s neighbors in efforts to end Iraq’s vicious sectarian violence before it spills over into a larger regional conflict.

But Iraqis on both sides of their nation’s sectarian divide report worrisome signs that the conflict will soon evolve into pitched battles between large armed groups.

One secular Shi’ite speaking on the telephone from Baghdad said Shi’ite militias were massing in preparation for a large offensive against Sunnis in the capital.

“They had a big militarylike ceremony today for the Mahdi militia, to show their force. They are making themselves ready for something big — protests, fighting, killing,” said the Shi’ite.

A secular Sunni in close contact with one insurgent faction, said rebel Sunnis were also trying to form alliances among militias for a big push in the city against the Shi’ites, including more raids on government buildings.
(emphasis mine)

Hat tip to Josh Marshall.

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