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Implosions in Iraq

Is Iraq heading towards civil war? More than a hundred people have been killed in what seems to be revenge attacks after the bombing of a key Shia shrine last week.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 03:07 IST
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Is Iraq heading towards civil war? More than a hundred people have been killed in what seems to be revenge attacks after the bombing of a key Shia shrine last week. Scores of bullet-riddled bodies were reportedly found in Baghdad alone, while 47 factory workers were killed in the heaviest single loss of life near the capital. The rash of attacks also claimed the lives of several Iraqi and US soldiers and a prominent al-Arabiya TV reporter and two of her crew. The violence appears to have erupted after militants blew up the golden dome of the revered al-Askari shrine in Samarra. Violent reprisals ensued as dozens of Sunni mosques were burnt to the ground, and Iraq descended to a level of anarchy unprecedented in the post-war period.

It’s true that sectarian tensions spiralling out of control like this could easily trigger a civil war, which would do more than squelch the chances of the elected Shia-led government that is taking shape after last December’s election. It may lead to the break-up of Iraq itself, and potentially export even more instability and violence across the region and beyond. But that’s the worst-case scenario. After all, Iraq has been in a state of civil war for a couple of years now. If it didn’t really look like that, it is because the Shias were not responding to the Sunni provocations. This is not surprising given the electoral process is heading their way.

Shia leaders wouldn’t want to upset the political applecart, and this is evident in their call for restraint despite one of their holiest shrines being attacked. So the mayhem probably has to do with emotional Shias reacting violently, and it may not derail the political process. Instead, the majority Shias look likely to end up holding almost all the power, as the electoral process grinds on. As, alas, the insurgency and violence continue.

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 03:07 IST