Let’s go back to the future of Iraq. “The problem in Iraq is not ISIS,” Najmaldin Karim, the wise governor of Kirkuk Province, which is partly occupied by ISIS, remarked to me. “ISIS is the symptom of mismanagement and sectarianism.” So even if ISIS is evicted from its stronghold in Mosul, he noted, if the infighting and mismanagement in Baghdad and sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis are not diffused, “the situation in Iraq could be even worse after” ISIS is toppled.This is why I think Obama is right not to make a major American commitment to defeat the Islamic State with another blitzkrieg armored advance on Raqqa, no matter how many people they kill in Europe and America. As things stand, that would only lead to more chaos, and to more intense fighting among all the other factions. We would be spending tens of billions of dollars and losing hundreds of lives to achieve nothing.
Why? Because there will just be another huge scramble among Iraqi Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmens, Shiite militias, Turkey and Iran over who controls these territories now held by ISIS. There is simply no consensus here on how power will be shared in the Sunni areas that ISIS has seized. So if one day you hear that we’ve eliminated the ISIS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and lowered the ISIS flag over Mosul, hold your applause.
I am not sure if it is even possible to find a diplomatic, political solution to the mess in Syria and Iraq, but I believe that achieving a stable political climate is the only way to control terrorism. Shock and awe will not suffice.
It will take an occupation - a long term, full scale occupation.
It will take years of international moderation as the various local factions squabble over how to carve the region up, and it will taketop tier diplomacy and deal brokering to find a workable middle ground solution.
Arguably, a majority Sunni region should sooner have a Sunni government rather than a Shiite one. But of course the ideal would be to have a regime which provides proportional representation for everyone - so that even minorities like the Kurds will have a meaningful voice, and certain rights and protections for their identity and way of life, to prevent the majority victimizing them. That may not be possible, but if there was to be such an occupation, realizing that ought to be the primary focus of it.
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