It could well be that this in retrospect will be seen as a watershed event in the history of post-invasion Iraq.
There is little doubt that the purpose of the attack was to inflame tension between the Sunni and the Shia communities of Iraq. It wasn’t an attack by insurgents against the coalition forces or against the new Iraqi authoroties – it was solely and obviously aimed at inflaming sectarian tensions.
As such, it was an attack well in line with the intensions of the extreme al-Qaeda aligned parts of the insurgence.
And it come at a particularly critical time in the political process of the country.
It’s two months since the elections that were supposed to bring order and stability in the country, but there is no new government in sight, with what the Washington Post calls ”the deeply flawed administration established last year”, under the ”the weak and unpopular” Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari still in place.
The problem is that the same Jafari has now been nominated by the dominating Shiite coalition to form a new government. The Americans have been doing everything they can to stop it, but evidently without success. They don’t see him as capable of forming the strong coalition with Sunni and Kurdish parties that is necessary in order to start to calm down the more nationalist – as distinct from the fundamentalist – part of the insurgence.
And this was before the horrible attack on the Golden Mosque and the outburst of sectarian violence that has followed.
Washington and London has rushed out with statements condemning the attack and promising help with the reconstruction of the Golden Mosque. Fine. But key will now be whether it will be possible to get Mr Jafari to really speed up the formation of a genuinely representative and effective government.
The signs – at the least from the perspective of London, where I am at the moment – are not encouraging. There is a new gloom in the discussions about the future of the country.
It all adds to all of the other worries in the emerging new crisis zone from Jerusalem to Jalalabad.