This could get really, really, really bad.
Then real disaster struck. The guerriillas blew up the domed Askariyah shrine in Samarra. The shrine, sacred to Shiiites, honors 3 Imams or holy descendants of the Prophet. They are Ali al-Hadi, Hasan al-Askari, and his disappeared son Muhammad al-Mahdi. Thousands of Shiiites demonnstrated in Samarra and in East Baghdad, against this desecration.
The Twelfh Imam or Mahdi is believed by Shiites to have disappeared into a supernatural realm (just as Christians believe in the ascension of Christ) from which he will someday return.
Some Shiites think his second coming is imminent. Muqtada all-Sadr and his followers are among them. They are livid about this attack on the shrine of the Mahdi’s father.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also a firm believer in the imminent coming of the Mahdi. I worry that Iranian anger will boil over as a result of this bombing of a Shiite millenarian symbol.
Both Sunnis and Americans will be blamed. Very bad.
An all-out Iraqi Civil War is so bad on so many levels. Maybe a million people would die. US troops would have a hell of a time just getting out of the way and back the US. Then the world’s sixth largest oilfield would be a combat zone. There’s no upside to this at all.