Sunni-majority towns in Iraq are falling to a broad Sunni alliance that includes ISIS as a major player. Only Iran and Maliki want us to believe that ISIS is solely responsible for the current offensive.
On the other hand, the idea that Iran is orchestrating this development in order to convince America and the international community to allow her to intervene directly in Iraq is naive. Such intervention would be too costly and Iran is already knee-deep in the Iraqi quagmire anyway, not to mention the Syrian one, and does not need to do so more overtly. Should Iran’s decide to embark on such a course, it would be a massive miscalculation on their part.
The best that Iran can do at this stage is to help Maliki secure and defend a Shia enclave in south Iraq, just like they are helping Assad establish a loyalist one in the western parts of Syria, an enclave that, while much more ethnically diverse than to be described as simply Alawite, is, nonetheless, structurally controlled by them and is shaped by an ethos that allows them, and Iran, to be the real movers-and-shakers and decision-makers.
The current developments in Iraq and Syria are indeed about redrawing the borders and redesigning the region. Once, the borders of the various enclaves are more or less relatively established, a return to an intra-Sunni and intra-Shia turf-wars within their respective majority enclaves will surely take place, and the nature of the ruling systems, that is, their degree of Islamization, will be decided then, in Iraq and Syria, and beyond.
It’s only logical for the Kurds to try to take advantage of these developments to secure and expand their various enclaves in the two countries at this stage, especially in Iraq. But in Iraq in particular, and perhaps in the Qamishly province in the northeastern tip of Syria, these Kurdish-majority enclaves will likely be more stable and secure than their neighbors due to the existence of more professionally managed and disciplined political and security structures, and militias. The secular nature of the emerging governing system there, the influence of the always controversial PYD in the Syrian parts notwithstanding, will likely mean that Western support will be more forthcoming.
The window for avoiding all these developments has always been small and required the existence of a political elite that is far more educated and mature than either countries had. The window has long been closed and shuttered now. Our main task as prodemocracy and human rights activists at this stage is simply to manage what comes, and try to heal the wounds. Let’s hope that we have enough maturity and understanding for adequately preparing for the next phase while appreciating its real nature.