We warned the Americans before they came that Iraq would not be easy: academic Even for Baghdad, the level of violence on Sunday was extraordinary. But beyond the body count and images of death and destruction, new questions arose about whether Iraq can find its way past democratic elections in January to peace and prosperity any time soon. As on many days in Baghdad, the early morning sounds of explosions shook the city awake and the rumble of tanks and screech of helicopters kept it sleepless late into the night. By the end of it, at least 37 people had been killed killed and 142 injured across the city, which included one of the most intense rocket and mortar barrages ever launched by insurgents in the heart of the capital. 'We warned the Americans before they came that Iraq would not be easy, that they should learn more about the country before they came here,' said Ahlam Adnan al-Jabbari, of Baghdad's Islamic University. 'Now we're in a situation where if they stay there will be violence and if they leave there will be violence.' Even the wonderful, brick-oven Pizza Napoli, which has become a favourite for Baghdad's foreigners and Iraqi expatriates, wasn't serving. 'No electricity, no customers, no nothing,' said the despondent Iraqi owner, who returned last year after decades in Italy. On Haifa Street in central Baghdad, the scene of the day's most intense fighting, agitated young men roamed the site where a Bradley fighting vehicle had been disabled. The street has long been a stronghold of insurgents opposed to the US invasion. Saddam Hussein populated its high-rise buildings with his loyalists, including exiles from other Arab countries. Neighbourhoods like this relish tales of how they disabled a US vehicle, blowing the tale up to gigantic proportions. 'They call this 'Death Street',' said Hussam Mehdi, a basket-seller. 'No police, no American soldiers can come here without being shot at.' Indeed, were the Americans to pull out of Iraq tomorrow, Baghdad neighbourhoods like Haifa Street and cities like Fallujah and Ramadi, the strongholds of the now marginalised former ruling class, would continue fighting any Iraqi government. Farther south on the road into the city from Kuwait and southern Iraq, a long convoy of trucks carted in new armoured vehicles, a reminder that though the occupation formally ended on June 28, the US military presence here remained, if not grew. On another side of town, US soldiers interacted with Iraqis in quite a different way, opening a state-of-the art clinic in a poor section of town, a US$4 million gift to Iraqis courtesy of American taxpayers. It includes a 24-hour emergency room, a radiology lab and a pharmacy. Behind a tight layer of security, Iraqis, including Deputy Health Minister Amir al Khuzai, and Americans, including health attache Jeff Brinkley, munched on cake, sipped soft drinks and shook hands. Within an elaborate security bubble that included a cordon of armoured vehicles and sniffer dogs, officials clung to a different vision of Iraq, where reconstruction is moving forward and democracy is flowering, where Americans and Iraqis work hand in hand to achieve a brighter tomorrow. As for elections, US and interim Iraqi officials said they can be held in January everywhere in the country other than the growing list of violent hot spots: Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra, Sadr City, and now Baghdad's Haifa Street. 'If city X decides that it prefers violence to elections, it will cut itself out of elections,' a senior American diplomat, said recently. At the clinic opening, Major-General Peter Chiarelli, commander of the Baghdad-based 1st Cavalry Division, said the army hoped to win the trust and confidence of Iraqis and thereby quell the insurgency clinic by clinic, sewer by sewer. 'You're taking away the power base of the insurgency to go ahead and recruit new members,' the general said in a brief interview. 'When people have no hope, when they have no hope for themselves, their children and their future, many times they'll turn to terrorism as a last resort.'