Recent gains by al-Qaeda's main offshoot in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), are dangerous and discouraging. ISIS control of Fallujah is particularly disheartening, given the U.S. blood spilled to liberate this city in 2004. ISIS occupation of cities such as Fallujah and Ramadi in western Iraq, and Raqqa in eastern Syria, are part and parcel of a plan to destroy the Iraqi state and to create an Islamic caliphate. Important U.S. interests in Iraqi stability and regional security are at stake.
This is an idea first proposed by Vice President Biden in 2006 when he was a senator. It was a non-starter then and it won't work any better today. While the Kurdish region in the north is already almost an independent country, neither Shiites nor Sunnis are interested in splitting up the rest of Iraq—something that would be hard to do, in any case, because the two sects are intermingled in Baghdad and other areas. Just as the solution to Iraq's last major bout of bloodletting, in 2003-2007, wasn't partition, so it isn't today.
With its Shiite government struggling for survival and poised for a confrontation with Sunni extremists in Fallujah, Iraq faces a deepening sectarian conflict partly fueled by spillover from Syria, says Jane Arraf.
"There is not a Sunni region in the country now that is not enmeshed in strife.… The conflict in Sunni regions is creating an atmosphere of perpetual crisis that could tip the country into civil war or be used by Maliki as a justification to stay in power after what is expected to be a closely fought election. The more chaos, the greater the chance for al-Qaeda-linked fighters to hide among the population and reap chaos."
The political standoff between the Shiite government of Nuri al-Maliki and Sunni protestors is fueling growing instability in Iraq, which recorded its most violent month in five years, explains Iraq expert Ned Parker.
Concerning the United States' legacy in Iraq Meghan L. O'Sullivan writes, "Had Saddam not been removed, it is almost certain that we would still be facing a volatile and potentially even more dangerous Middle East."
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