The US State Department has laid out a report of human rights abuses in Iraq, including torture and politically motivated killings that contrast with assessments by President George W. Bush and others of progress since the US-led invasion three years ago.
The department's annual report on human rights worldwide also said repression increased in China last year, trending toward "increased harassment, detention and imprisonment" of people seen as threats to the government.
The section on China said the government's human rights record "remained poor and the government continued to commit numerous and serious abuses."
In addition to painting the darker picture of life in Iraq, the survey took to task other major Arab allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt for poor records overall and called the United Arab Emirates' performance problematic.
"A climate of extreme violence in which people were killed for political and other reasons continued" in Iraq, the report said. "Reports increased of killings by the government or its agents that may have been politically motivated."
Insurgent violence and terrorism affected every aspect of life in the country last year, corruption is rampant and there are reports of discrimination against women and minorities, the report said.
Although the report catalogued Iraq's advances toward a permanent democratic government last year, the State Department assessment sounded less optimistic than a similar report covering 2004.
Reports of possibly politically motivated killings were called intermittent last year. Last year's report said the interim government "generally respected human rights" despite serious problems. The latest study says only that the current government's performance on human rights was "handicapped" by the violence and instability.
The period covered by the report does not include recent sectarian violence in Iraq set off by last month's bombing of a mosque revered by Shiites. Talks to form a permanent unified government have stalled in the aftermath.
The US ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, said this week the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein had opened a "Pandora's box," and the violence could turn into an all-out regional war if US troops are withdrawn too quickly.
Iraq was the only country US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mentioned by name in brief remarks introducing last year's study. She did not mention its catalog of violence and corruption there.
"Today, there is a worldwide discussion of democratic ideas and the universal principles that democratic governance protects,"Rice said.
"This discussion is taking place from the halls of government in newly democratic Iraq to Internet cafes around the globe, in numerous public squares and across countless kitchen tables," she said.