Bush confers with US generals on changes in Iraq tactics Saturday as lethal violence claims dozens of new Iraqi victims, 3 US Marines

The Marines were killed in combat in Anbar, raising the US death toll in October to 78.
More than 30 Iraqis died in a mortar attack on an outdoor market in Mahmudiya south of Baghdad, 8 in two suicide bombings in Baghdad. Iraqi interior minister Jawad al-Bolani traveled to Najaf Saturday to meet radical cleric Moqtada Sadr, head of the Mehdi Army militia, as Shiite infighting flared in southern Iraq.
debkafile‘s military sources report that the internal Shiite warfare is a fresh complication amid Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence and a further sign that the handover to local forces is not working.
Members of Sadr’s Mehdi Army militia attacked a police station in Suwayra Saturday. Eight of the 150 assailants died before a message from him caused them to withdraw.
Further south, 25 people have died in the two days since Mehdi militiamen seized the provincial capital of Amarah Friday, two months after the British army handed security over to Iraqi forces. The Mehdi militiamen are battling “Iraqi police” dominated by the Badr militia loyal to the SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. British troops are staying out of the town and keeping their distance.
The warring factions are represented in parliament by powerful blocs on which Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who has vowed to disband the militias, is heavily dependent.
President George W. Bush is faced with mounting pre-election pressure from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers to overhaul his Iraq strategy. In October alone, 78 American troops have been killed, the highest number since the Nov. 2004 siege of Falluja, and more than 800 Iraqis.
Still, the US president insists he will not back away from a self-sustaining Iraq government and denounced what he called the defeatism of some Democrats.
Bush held a videoconference with Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, top White House officials and U.S. military officials in Iraq. Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, presented the military case. Iraqi commander Maj.-Gen Caldwell said this week the two-month crackdown on violence in Baghdad “has not met our expectations.”

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