That is why the United States dismisses armed resistance to its occupation of Iraq as "terrorism - pure and simple".

Since the start of the US-led occupation of Iraq in April, Washington has been at pains to characterise attacks against its forces as the work of Saddam loyalists.

As recently as June, Paul Bremer, 
Iraq's occupation administrator, told a Congressional subcommittee the resistance was coming from remnants of the Baath party and the Republican Guard.

But since then he has changed his tune and this week he sounded his first note of alarm over the presence of Islamist groups.

Bremer admission

“Starting in July, we saw them begin to regroup and come back in. There’s no question we have scores of Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaida terrorists here. And we have problems, particularly at the Syrian border of people still coming into the country,” he said.

Iraqi analysts such as Salman al-Jumaili, doctor of political science at
Baghdad University, agree.

Al-Jumali has studied the backgrounds of resistance fighters killed in combat.

“You will find that the vast majority of them are Islamists - I mean Sunni and Shia Muslims - who are fighting for the sole purpose of pushing
America out of Iraq," he told Aljazeera net.

The doctor estimates there are about 25 attacks every day, although only two or three usually make it onto the international news broadcasts.

Islamic and nationalist resistance

His analysis of Iraqi casualties and fatalities has led him to the conclusion that "Saddam loyalists" do not feature in any major resistance role at all.

Bremer has admitted resistance
 is not from Saddam loyalists 

It is more appropriate, he says, to describe resistance in Iraq as Islamic and nationalist in nature rather than Baathist.

"It is important to mention nationalist resistance - among the dead we have found Turkomans and Iraqi Christians as well as Muslims."

The
US’ failure to rehabilitate Saddam Hussein’s army is at the root of the problem, he says.

"
America's great gift to the resistance movement was to disband the 350,000-man Iraqi Army.

Iraqi army

"Now you have well over a quarter of a million men who know how to use weapons sitting at home with no job and nothing to do - who are faced daily with Americans entering their homes, searching their properties and treating them as animals.

"So an ex-soldier or civilian who is religious can find a movement that supports his views, a man that wants to defend his country can join, a man who wants revenge for injustice can take part and of course even the man who simply needs money can join in - some groups can boast hundreds of members."

Although Iraqi Islamist fighters form the great majority of the resistance, no particular group predominates.

There are literally dozens of militias with no central planning or coordination, although there is some evidence to suggest a few Islamist groups have began to coalesce in recent weeks.

"There are many differences between the different groups, even between different Islamist resistance forces, but the unifying cause for the struggle is the American occupation."

Resistance growing

“There’s no question we have scores of Ansar al-Islam and al-Qaida terrorists here. And we have problems, particularly at the Syrian border of people still coming into the country”

Paul Bremer,
US occupation administrator
 

"If America does not leave, then I expect to see a huge wave of resistance approaching. The White House can deal with one death here, and two there, but very soon... much sooner than they think... it will be 10 dead soldiers here, and 20 there."

Qahtan al-Khafaji, a doctor of strategic studies at the college for political science, says the resistance is showing every sign of strengthening.

"Islamic resistance continues to grow among both the Shia and the Sunnis as it becomes clear that the
US is not here to rebuild this country. It’s six months now, and nearly all feel the situation has got worse from all perspectives - particularly socially and economically."

"Look at the
port of Um Qasr - it has become a private American company. It imports weapons and military equipment, not food or building materials.

"Look at
Baghdad airport; it is used as a prison for the '55 most wanted' rather than being rebuilt to open up Iraq to the rest of the world.

'War on terror'

"Look at how the $87 billion passed by the US Senate only recently is going to be spent - $67 billion for fighting and $20 billion for reconstruction. Doesn't this say what the
US is here for - to dig in, to remain - not to rebuild?"

On the other hand, Al-Khafaji believes the
US administration needs a certain amount of resistance to justify the continued occupation.

"They have a global war on terror, as they call it. They can't pin down al-Qaida, but the longer they stay in
Iraq, the more international jihadis they are sucking in from Iran, Saudi, Syria, Jordan, Yemen etc who may have links to international Islamist movements.

"This is what the Americans want - it is the only thing they can use to justify remaining in a country they occupied illegally.

"If there was no resistance, what excuse could the
US use not to hand over control to the Iraqi people immediately?"

"Islamic resistance continues to grow among both the Shia and the Sunnis as it becomes clear that the US is not here to rebuild this country..."

Qahtan al-Khafaji,
Iraqi political expert

Al-Qaida phenomenon

Al-Khafaji is convinced
Iraq is fast becoming the preferred destination for international organisations wanting a chance to fight the country that supports Israel and has occupied the whole of the Arab Gulf.

"Al-Qaida may still be a minority phenomenon in
Iraq, but it is likely to become increasingly significant."

Meanwhile, Muthanna Harith al-Dari, a doctor of Islamic sciences at
Baghdad University agrees with the prognosis.

Americans forces must leave, or they face being the architects of their own downfall, he says.

"
US authorities must transfer power to Iraqis immediately. They should not hang around to ensure a puppet government is installed that will protect their interests. It is as simple as that."

Neo-colonialism

He accuses
Washington of a thinly-veiled attempt to neo-colonise Iraq.

“At the moment, it is all too obvious that the Americans are only attempting to secure places that are in their own immediate interests. Oil pipelines, certain embassies, the port and airports, ministries - they have not rebuilt anything as yet or provided a level of security that even begins to compare to pre-war Iraq.

"In
Britain's Independent newspaper last week, one article pointed out that only five people died in violent crime in Iraq in March 2003. This month, 50 have died in Baghdad alone."

The sooner Iraqi police patrol Iraqi streets and Iraqi soldiers protect towns and borders, the quicker armed resistance will disappear, reckons al-Dari, since there would be nothing to resist.

"The
US could end the fighting tomorrow by withdrawing its army and taking it back home. They came to destroy WMD and later they said to remove Saddam Hussein. One, it seems, was never here, the other won't be coming back. The task they gave themselves is finished."