Iraq took a lethal step closer to disintegration and civil war yesterday after a devastating attack on one of the country’s holiest sites. The destruction of the golden-domed Shia shrine in Samarra sparked a round of bloody sectarian retaliation in which up to 60 Sunni mosques were attacked and scores of people were killed or injured.
The bomb attack has enraged the majority Shia population, who regard the shrine in the same way that Roman Catholics view St Peter’s in Rome.
In a number of respects civil war in Iraq has already begun. Many of the thousand bodies a month arriving in the morgues in Baghdad are of people killed for sectarian reasons. It is no longer safe for members of the three main communities Â the Sunni and Shia Arabs and the Kurds Â to visit each other’s parts of the country.
“January 2003 the President invited three members of the Iraqi opposition to join him to watch the Super Bowl. In the course of the conversation the Iraqis realized that the President was not aware that there was a difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. He looked at them and said, ‘You mean…they’re not, you know, there, there’s this difference. What is it about?'”
– former U.S. dilpomat Peter Galbraith