The U.S. strategy to create a stable, democratic Iraq is in danger of failing, current and former U.S. officials say, and the anti-American insurgency is growing larger, more sophisticated and more violent.
A wave of brazen attacks across Iraq on Tuesday included the deadliest single bombing in Baghdad in six months -- a car bomb explosion at a police station that killed at last 47 people. At least seven bombs went off in the capital on Sunday, killing about 40 people.
The violence increasingly appears to threaten nationwide elections planned for January, which are key to President Bush's hopes for reducing the 140,000-strong U.S. troop presence and making a graceful exit from Iraq.
Many experts on Iraq say the best that can be hoped for now is continued chaos that falls short of an all-out civil war.
''The overall prospects . . . are for a violent political future,'' said Jeffrey White, a former senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst.
Top Bush administration officials publicly acknowledge that the insurgency has spiked. But they point out that they predicted it would do just that as Iraq's January elections approached.
The officials insist that the elections will go ahead. And, they say, the United States has no choice but to persevere as it builds up Iraq's own security forces to maintain order