(voice-over) This is what a civil war here might look
like. An attack like this one on the Shia stronghold
of Sadr City in Baghdad could have tipped Iraq into
an all-out sectarian conflict. Instead, it was blamed
on religious extremists and not the Sunni insurgents
waging war on the Americans. It's a sign of how much
has changed here. We went inside the insurgency to
hear from the men who could be on the front lines of
that civil war and whose voices are rarely heard.
This man is a former high-ranking officer in Saddam's army. "I don't believe civil war has begun yet," he told me, "but I know there are death squads on both sides who want to change that. We see no difference between Sunni or Shia, and we do not want a war," he said. "But," he warns, "if it happens, we could be ordered by our leaders to fight."
He and commanders from other Iraqi insurgent groups agree with the US military on one thing: they all blame outsiders for trying to provoke the conflict, from al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to Iranian-backed militias. Here, bomb-makers from another Iraqi guerrilla group make what the military calls an IED, the insurgents' deadliest weapon in the war.
(on camera) It's men like this, from Iraqi insurgent groups, that a senior military intelligence officer told me the US is trying to turn against al Qaeda. As a sign of good faith, he said the Americans have released key Sunni leaders from prison.
(voice-over) But there are other extremist forces that cannot be negotiated with, like the hardline Sunni group Ansar al-Sunna, whose fighters are sen in these pictures. They're the group US intelligence suspects were behind the massive attack in Sadr City. The irony is, one of the things stopping such provocative strikes from sparking the civil war the extremists want is that insurgents say they must remain united to fight their true common enemy, the American military.
For CBS News, Michael Ware in Baghdad.