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The Bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque

Why did terrorists bomb the Al-Askariya shrine in Samarra?

The obvious answer is that they wanted to try and set off massive sectarian violence to disrupt - if not destroy - the formation of the fledgling federal government in Iraq. We've seen a wave of violence and reprisal killings, but also calls for calm and unity, so at the moment it remains unclear which way things may tip.

The less obvious answer is this: the bombing of al-Askariya clearly represents a huge escalation and a huge risk by the terrorists. Of all the options available to them, you would think destroying a 1,200 year-old sacred holy site of Shia Islam would be near the bottom of the list. The real question is why the terrorists felt compelled to take this risk now.

One argument could be they were waiting for the perfect timing. Another could be that they've already tried everything else and nothing has worked. The Iraqi government is forming and the terrorists are running out of both time and options, so they turned to an unbelievably risky strategy that will either incite civil war or unite the country against their cause. This bombing smacks of being an act of last resort.

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