Bomb demolishes Badr Brigade HQ in Baghdad

In a sign of increasing violence against Shi’ites, early Friday morning, a bomb destroyed the Baghdad HQ of the “Badr Brigade”:, the private militia of “SCIRI”:, the leading Shi’ite political party in Iraq. A woman was killed and at least seven people were injured.
Headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, SCIRI and the Badr Brigade are believed to be in a low-level war with the insurgents, which is likely made up of Iraqi nationalists and Sunnis loyal to the old regime. mdf431197.jpg
An elderly Iraqi woman sits outside her home destroyed in Friday’s explosion. Photo by Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters
The Brigade is a likely source of manpower for a “proposed counter-terrorism unit”: that would draw on the private militias of the various political parties in Iraq — mostly exile groups, but including the Kurdish _peshmergas._ Juan Cole reports that Iyad al-Samarra’i, the secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, calls this plan a “recipe for Lebanonizing Iraq.”
Just two days ago, insurgents “shot and killed Muhannad al-Hakim”:, head of security at the Education Ministry and a cousin of Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim.
The big question now is, will the Shi’ites strike back? That’s the worry, as that would be civil war, with American troops in the middle. That’s what the insurgents want, as they think that a messy civil war will cause the American troops to bug out — not an unreasonable assumption given the bombing of the Marines’ barracks in Lebanon civil war in 1983 led to just that outcome.
(By the way, my use of of the terms “Sunnis” and “Shi’ites” in the context of this post should not be construed as portraying _all_ Shi’ites and _all_ Sunnis as lusting for each others’ blood. I’m referring to the militants and political activists in each camp. The majority of Sunnis and Shi’ites just wish to live in peace.)
To a degree, the capture of Saddam may have made the Shi’ites less inclined to listen to the Americans, who no doubt are urging SCIRI to avoid retaliation. Without the the worry of Saddam returning to power, the Shi’ites are losing patience are are less inclined to tolerate the occupation and become more assertive. A little over a week ago, a bomb exploded at the Ahbab Mustafa Mosque in Baghdad, killing four Sunnis. And a friend of mine is in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city and a Shi’ite stronghold, tells me the graffiti is a mixture of thanks to America and calls for _jihad_. Couple the Shi’ites numerical superiority with the hand-over in sovereignty in June, and they will have mostly a free hand to deal with the Sunnis. It could be a bloodbath. Will they wait until June — and let the Americans soften up their Sunni foes in the meantime — or will they counter-attack now? “The attack on the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf in August”:, which killed Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, did not result in a civil war, but the shadow of Saddam still hung over Iraq, and the Shi’ites may have worried that in the chaos of civil war, he might somehow return to power. And so they kept their powder dry. Will that be the case now?