"I believe that the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular, and that, if not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war," General John Abizaid told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington.
General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made similar remarks, saying there is the possibility of Iraq "devolving" into civil war.
Pace told the panel that "Shi'ite and Sunni are going to have to love their children more than they hate each other." He said that "the weight of that must be on the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government."
Their remarks come after Britain's outgoing ambassador to Iraq, William Patey, said a civil war in Iraq is "probably more likely" than a transition to a stable democracy.
Patey, who left Baghdad last week, said that the next six months will be a "crucial" phase for the country.
According to Abizaid, a deadly "competition" is ongoing in Iraq: Al-Qaeda terrorists, insurgents, and Shi'ite militants are all vying to plunge the country into a civil war.
"Afghanistan, Iraq, and the entire region remain dangerous and often deadly," he said. "Our continued involvement in shaping regional security forces and providing the framework for regional action against extremist groups is essential for our own safety and prosperity at home."
And, he called for additional security forces, both U.S. and Iraqi, in ensuring security in Baghdad.
(compiled from agency reports)