The worrying rise of the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and particularly its advances in Mosul has shown how its gains are reverberating beyond Iraq and Syria and posing serious challenges to other regional countries.
The capture of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, by ISIS, which is now poised to carve out a rump state across the Sunni-dominated lands that stretch from Iraq to Syria and beyond, is considered as the most dramatic example of the resurgence of the country’s sectarian war.
The ISIS has not only seized critical cities in Iraq but has also rang the alarm bells in Ankara with the abduction of the Turkish diplomats, including Consul-General Öztürk Yılmaz, consular dependents and several members of Turkey's Special Forces in a seizure of the Turkish consulate general in Mosul.
The capture of Mosul and the hostage crisis should be considered as a show of strength of ISIS against Iraq's Shiite-led government; but also as a message to Ankara and other regional countries.
No chance to act recklessly
The desperate situation in the country has alarmed the regional countries, which raised concerns over an emergence of prolonged sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites with unpredictable consequences for the region.
Neither the fate of Sunnis nor the fate of the region should be left into hands of the ISISSinem Cengiz
Turkey, as an immediate neighbor to Iraq, stated that the crisis in Iraq is turning into an issue of sectarian conflicts, saying that the developments have gone far beyond an encounter with forces affiliated with ISIS.
Iraq’s neighbors, other regional countries but also the west needs to make every effort to prevent a sectarian war from happening. They do not have the chance to act recklessly towards the situation in Iraq as how they did in Syria.
Regional countries, which are the ones paying for the huge price of the prolonged war in Syria or elsewhere in the region, have to make more efforts and should not leave the Iraqi crisis at the hands of the western world solely. It is not a secret that due to the reluctance of West, Syria has now turned into a failed state after more than four years of conflict.
Therefore, these countries should step up the efforts to prevent crisis in Iraq from turning into a chaos that threatens the region and the world.
The Iraqi crisis has no chance to be considered as sustainable. Indeed, many are confused about how to deal with the crisis. However, one thing should be clear that only a political solution agreed by the neighboring countries can solve the crisis in the country.
Here, it is significant to recall the “international conference of Iraq's neighbors”, which in the past years has taken place as a useful vehicle for increasing support for Iraqi democracy and sovereignty.
It was a conference in which not only all Iraq's neighbors but also the five permanent UN Security Council member countries and the G8 industrial powers attended. At that time, American and Iranian top officials did not come together on the sidelines of the meeting on the future of Iraq. However, the conditions in the region today are different than few years ago. Today, the US is contemplating talks with Iran to support their main ally, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki government, in its battle with Sunni extremist insurgents who seized critical cities of the country recently.
Today, Tehran and Washington says Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces.
“Nobody has an interest in seeing terrorists gain a foothold inside of Iraq, and nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq descend into chaos.” said US President Barack Obama recently.
It is so clear: nobody is going to benefit from seeing Iraq dragging into a sectarian war.
Maliki has alienated many
Needless to say, the policies of Maliki are the origin of the conflict in the country. The Maliki’s dictatorial and sectarian policies had alienated many, especially the majority of Sunni Arabs in the country.
Due to Maliki’s monopolizing power by suppressing Sunni Arabs and other groups and his march to authoritarian rule, Iraq is facing the risk of heading towards a sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiites.
For some, the advances of the ISIS are considered as revival of the Sunni insurgency. However, the atrocities of ISIS, which is currently the most dangerous group in the region, should not be seen as a revolution of Sunnis and also Iraq’s Sunnis should not be forced to appeal to ISIS’s help to protect their rights.
Neither the fate of Sunnis nor the fate of the region should be left into hands of the ISIS. It may be a difficult task to get rid of the extremists in the region, but Iraq’s neighbors as well as should seek ways to prevent the groups like ISIS to determine the fate of the region.
Sinem Cengiz is an Ankara-based Diplomatic Correspondent for Today’s Zaman Newspaper, which is the best-selling and the most circulated English daily in Turkey. Born and lived in Kuwait, Cengiz focuses mainly on issues regarding Middle East and Turkey’s relations with the region. Cengiz is also a blogger at Today's Zaman's blog section where she provides fresh and unusual accounts of what's going on in Ankara's corridors of power. She can be found on Twitter: @SinemCngz