US forces in the eastern Iraqi city of Kut are holding talks with local leaders to try to resolve a dispute over who is in power after the town hall was taken over by an Iranian-backed Muslim cleric.
The Americans believe that he does not have popular support and are now trying to dislodge him.
The political situation in Kut is inflamed by the proximity of the Iranian border.
Syed Abbas claims the support of thousands
There are no American forces at the border posts and people are crossing into Iraq at will.
A local Shia holy man, Syed Abbas, who is clearly well-funded, has taken over the town hall and is backed by thousands of loyal supporters who have staged rallies every day.
But the Americans believe that he does not represent a majority here.
The situation is very tense as the marines are holding a meeting with tribal elders.
Marines have physically threatened reporters who try to get close to the meeting.
Across many cities in the highly-populated centre and east of Iraq, between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the message to the Americans has been the same - now you have got rid of Saddam, you too should leave.
Two days ago, in Diwaniyah, at least two people were shot in riots which followed an attempt by marines to impose a leader.