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Across Iraq, battles erupt with Mahdi Army

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The fighting burnished Sadr's standing among fellow Shiites wary of the US occupation. Over the years, the US has repeatedly accused elements within the Sadrist movement of having ties with Iran and even Lebanon's Hizbullah.

After rockets hit the Green Zone Sunday, US commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus said the weapons had been provided by Iran.

On Tuesday, Rear Adm. Greg Smith, spokesman for US-led multinational forces in Iraq, blamed the elite Quds units of Iran's Revolutionary Guards for supplying the 22 107-mm and 122-mm rockets that hit the heavily fortified area of Baghdad that is home to the US Embassy.

"We believe the violence is being instigated by members of special groups that are beholden to the Iranian Quds Force and not Sadr.... Although we are concerned, we know that very few Iraqis want a return to the violence they experienced before the surge," he says.

Admiral Smith says US and Iraqi forces were facing two distinct enemies in Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Iranian-trained and supplied special groups. But he adds, "AQI is still Iraq's No. 1 enemy."

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