The Insurgent's Log
politics, insurgency and violence in the contemporary world

Friday, August 29, 2003  

The gruesome assassination of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim has jolted the Insurgent out of his late summer revery and to remark--in a typically dismal vein--that this event might mark the beginning of a Shia-Sunni civil war in Iraq. Already, CNN reports that 300 or so Badr Brigade troops are moving from Baghdad to Najaf. The report may be exaggerated, and it's unclear how heavily armed Badr Brigade members in Iraq are (having told the Americans that they are entering Iraq unarmed).

While the shockwaves of this attack will most likely to be felt by the Sunni community, the United States will also have to deal with Shia resentment. Although US forces have wisely stayed away from the Imam Ali Mosque, SCIRI officials have complained that the US failed to act on a proposal to set up a special security force to secure holy Shia sites. There is the small chance that Moktada al-Sadr's rival movement carried out the attack, but it seems incredible that fellow Shia would strike at the Imam Ali Mosque.

But the greatest danger lies in an emotional response by various Shia groups, sparking the very spiral of action and reaction that the attackers intended. This could be a turning point.

Do read John Lee Anderson's fascinating New Yorker article, written in February, about the late Ayatollah and SCIRI's vision of Iraq after Saddam.

posted by The Insurgent | 7:17 PM |