Since Baghdad fell to U.S. troops on April 9, 2003, a new kind of war has begun in our country which is more barbaric, more vicious and more evil than any ever seen in the modern world.

Instead of planting democracy, tolerance, human rights and reconciliation, the U.S. occupation has bred sectarian and ethnic strife, and an atmosphere of insecurity in which human life has become worthless.

Sectarian tensions, which were non-existent before, began to surface under the banner of the multi-party system and pluralism.

The occupation may not be directly responsible for the current divisions in the society, but it has encouraged and paved the way for them to take root, and they have become almost impossible to wipe out.

The sectarian ditch was dug by Iraqi hands, but the occupation helped in the digging, filling these ditches with fuel and setting them on fire.

It is simply naive to blame the current upheaval on the bombing of the shrine of the holy imams in Samarra. Sectarian tensions were already simmering, and the bombing was only meant to add more fuel to the already raging sectarian fire.

Iraqis have gone through many wars and much suffering, and the hardest of all was the 13-year U.N. sanctions, which impoverished Iraqi society, emaciated its women and children and almost ruined the infrastructure.

It is good to try and contain the turmoil in the aftermath of the shrine bombing, but the people in charge must remember that civil strife will persist until the issues that created it are addressed.

Some factions seem to be pleased to see the country in such turmoil. They believe that immersing people in their sectarian schemes and shedding of streams of innocent blood serves their vicious intentions.

But filling Iraq's streets with tanks, armored personnel carriers and troops will not solve the problem. Iraqi leaders need to seize this embarrassing moment and agree upon a national program to save the country.

We are in need of a broad national government that reinforces national unity, dissolves armed militias, puts an end to kidnapping and killing and reinstates law and order.