With the fall of Mosul to ISIS terrorists the goal of a new state incorporating territory in northern Iraq and Syria may be a reality. As I see it, this is more than a Sunni-Shia conflict within the confines of one region. It has the potential to be the catalyst of World War IV, the Cold War being World War III.
All of the geographic suppositions of the past have been challenged. The lines defining Syria are decimated. Syria will be dismantled along with Iraq. A Kurdish state is a distinct possibility even though Turkey will be vigorously opposed to it. Jordan’s future is now in peril, forcing Israel to protect its eastern front. Iran will join its Shia allies in Iraq to realize as much of the country as possible and to oppose the Sunni ISIS. Because of pressure from Congress the U.S. is likely to provide support and logistical aid to the Malaki government in Iraq and assist Iranian efforts to stabilize the region, notwithstanding the rivalry between the U.S. and Iran on a host of other issues, including nuclear weapons development.
Waiting in the wings are the Sunni nations of Egypt, UAE, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia that fear Shia imperialistic impulses more than the ISIS. Should Iran exploit this tumultuous situation to enhance its own position, those Sunni states would be obliged to act. Similarly, Netanyahu and Israeli leaders cannot stand by and allow Jordan to be uprooted by ISIS radicals. The peace with Jordan has preserved relative stability on Israel’s eastern border for several decades.
Complicating matters is the nuclear weapons issue. In every escalation scenario, the possibility of nuclear exchange is the termination point. But with Iran on the cusp of development and Saudi Arabia consummating a deal for weapons acquisition with Pakistan, the genie is out of the bottle and the region is a powder keg.
Since Islam sometimes masquerades as a religion behind a political ideology, its politicized version promoted by Da’esh, al Qaeda, the Khomeinists in Iran, the Taliban and Boko Haran is eager to establish a worldwide Califate even if deprived of its theological mooring. The events, as they are unfolding in the Middle East, offer a scenario for a worldwide convulsion. While the caliphate project is unrealistic, at the moment it inspires radical aspirations leading to a recipe for conflict, terrorism and World War IV.
President Obama assumes the United States can remain immune from the horror. He decided to withdraw our forces precipitously from Iraq, even though the general staff warned him of the consequences. Now he has very few options, albeit war has a way of calling on you even if you are openly opposed to it. The declaration by President Obama that with the departure of our forces from Iraq, that nation will be free from war and a comment from Vice President Biden that Iraq is now stable and democratic, were grossly unrealistic.
A foreign policy based on a denial of reality and a belief that the US intervention is always wrong has produced a world infinitely more dangerous than the period before the Obama administration. If this government does not recover from its myopia, the U.S. will be dragged into the war whether we like it or not. Terrorism will be on the rise and no American will be secure around the world or even within the confines of the United States.
The ISIS forces represent the front line in the Middle East’s tectonic changes. Borders will be redrawn, tribal loyalties will energize full blown as a motivation for geographic alteration and the revolutionary surge is likely to manifest itself in several fronts. This is not the end of the Arab Spring, but the commencement of the Middle East War, a war that has the capacity to enlist many non-Arab states.
The idea that Islam can resolve its political conflicts is a chimera. Iran’s former President Khatami claims the Enlightenment is responsible for wars. His rational exegesis relies on Islamic tradition and protecting his people from western political and cultural influences.
There isn’t any turning back. The first and, arguably most important consideration, is the recognition of reality—what we as a nation can and cannot do and what we must prepare for. To do any less would be catastrophic. Time to engage in less texting, golf playing and t.v. watching and more strategic thinking. This is the challenge now facing Americans in the emergence of a potential World War.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries atwww.londoncenter.org
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