Vali Nasr writes: Contrary to what pessimists are saying, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s sudden sweep across northern Iraq does not have to end with the Middle East’s borders redrawn. That would be a calamity; the United States should do all it can to avoid it. And we can — if American diplomacy, rather than military intervention, is the main tool.
Yes, America may have to resort to surgical airstrikes to help Iraq check the advance of this extremist group, known as ISIS. But in the end, Iraq can be pulled back fully from the brink only if its quarreling sects agree to share power under a new constitution. And that will not happen unless American diplomats re-engage as mediators among the sectarian leaders.
The Shiite-Sunni divide has grown too wide for Iraqis to reconcile their differences by themselves, and Iraq’s neighboring powers are in no position to be honest brokers. Iran stands firmly behind Iraq’s Shiites, while Saudi Arabia and Turkey sympathize with its Sunnis.
So Americans alone have the ability to bring together all the stakeholders to end the fighting. Once we take on that role, the cooperation of the three regional powers would be not only useful, but essential. [Continue reading…]