Wednesday, June 10, 2015

ISIS Could Win

If ISIS wins...

What would result from an ISIS victory? First, an official Sunni Muslim state would be consolidated, straddling the post-World War I Sykes-Picot Syria-Iraq border whose very existence exemplifies for the Islamic State how Middle Eastern geopolitics was unilaterally rearranged by European powers. The battlefield would decide exactly how much of Syria and how much of Iraq would fall under the state's control.

In Iraq, the Islamic State would incorporate all Arab Sunni areas, beginning with Anbar, the largest Iraqi province. Kurdistan would be left alone, at least for the time being. The Peshmerga army, beefed up by the United States and highly motivated because the Kurdish fighters are defending their own territory, would be a fierce opponent for ISIS, whose leaders are rational strategists.

Iraq south of Baghdad - that is, the country's Shiite-dominated area - would also be left unchallenged for the time being.

Nevertheless, as with Turkey, the Islamic State logically at some future point would attack Iran. The Islamic State's goal is to reign over the entire Muslim world of believers, the umma, in a Sunni caliphate centered on Sunni beliefs and Sunni interpretations of the Koran. Iranian society is Persian and overwhelmingly Shiite; Turkey is Sunni, but comprises mainly Turkic peoples, along with a Kurdish minority accounting for 15 percent of the population.

If ISIS wins its wars in Iraq and Syria, Iraq will have effectively broken down into its three historical ethnic-religious regions: a majority-Shiite south, a Sunni-Kurdish north, and a Sunni-Arab west. An international conference to legally redraw boundaries would be unnecessary and in any case anathema, to the Islamic State and outside powers alike.