Why "The US Should Have Already Panicked," The Sectarian Divide Mapped Out
Meghan O’Sullivan, Harvard's Director of Geopolitics (and former deputy national security adviser for Iran and Afghanistan) warns, "The US should have already panicked." As she notes, major American economic and political interests are at stake. The erasure of the Syria-Iraq border by a group that is considered too radical for al-Qaeda, the takeover of Iraq’s second largest city by IS, the kidnapping of international diplomats, and the declaration of an Islamic caliphate in large parts of Iraq and Syria – each one of these should be a major signal about the gravity of the situation. The Sectarian Divide remains key...
First, the US needs to view Iraq and Syria as completely interwoven – perhaps two countries, but one theater in reality. It needs to view IS for what it is, a threat to US and regional interests, not just as a threat to the Iraqi government. This would suggest more military involvement to push back against IS. Both in Iraq and Syria, the crisis is ultimately a political one, not a military one, so changing the politics is also key. But the US should not think that it can sequence military help only to follow political reform – the two must come together given the urgency of the situation.
While the United States continues to deliberate about its next moves, others – Syria, Iran, Russia – have been filling the vacuum in ways that are not aligned with US interests. Along with political pressure, more US military assistance to Baghdad and even to the Kurds will give the US political leverage when it comes time to help the Iraqis renegotiate their political compact. The moment in which the US can make a difference and truly affect the outcome is narrowing dramatically every day.
Source: Goldman Sachs
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