Behind the Sunni-Shi'ite Divide

The war between the two Islamic sects has left the U.S.'s hopes of building a stable Iraq in ruins. A look at the roots of the struggle —and whether anything can stop it

Stephen Hird / Reuters

A young man mourns at a funeral for a relative killed in an attack on the Shii'te enclave Sadr City in November 2006. It is believed that Sunni arab militants were responsible for the blasts, which killed over 150 people.

It has come to this: the hatred between Iraq's warring sects is now so toxic, it contaminates even the memory of a shining moment of goodwill. On Aug. 31, 2005, a stampede among Shi'ite pilgrims on a bridge over the Tigris River in Baghdad led to hundreds jumping into the water in panic. Several young men in Adhamiya, the Sunni neighborhood on the eastern bank, dived in to help. One of them, Othman al-Obeidi, 25, rescued six people before his limbs gave out from exhaustion and he himself drowned. Nearly 1,000 pilgrims died that afternoon, but community leaders in the Shi'ite...

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