The timing of the Iraqi government's offensive against Shiite militias in Basra took the Americans by surprise, and the U.S. military has acknowledged privately that Iraqi troops have not fared well so far.
According to U.S. commanders, the U.S. cannot let the Iraqis fail, so they're going to increase American involvement in the battle. Commanders are waiting to see how things go in the next few days, however, because they don't want to seem as though the U.S. is rescuing Iraqi forces.
The U.S. bombed Madhi Army targets in Basra and Baghdad on Friday, and there were clashes in Sadr City. The U.S. military confirmed one of its vehicles had been bombed, but reported no casualties.
There were more than 20 attacks in the Green Zone on Friday alone. Rocket and mortar shells rained down on the protected quarter of Baghdad as Iraq's parliament met in an emergency session to seek ways to end the fighting.
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has not ordered his militiamen to stop fighting, however, and they showed no intention of handing in weapons.