A civil war is brewing in Iraq as extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) execute Shi’ite soldiers as they advance south toward the capital.
Kenneth M. Pollack, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, wrote an overview of the military situation in Iraq for non-experts — and it’s grim.
He prefaces the assessment by saying that it is “exceptionally difficult to understand the dynamics of ongoing military operations. ” Nevertheless, he sees a general trend toward increased sectarian hostilities and eventually civil war.
He states that the most likely scenario is that the rapid ISIS offensive will be stalemated at or north of the Shia-dominated capital of Baghdad, splitting the country “basically along Iraq’s ethno-sectarian divide.”
And then he makes a very sobering prediction:
“If military developments in Iraq conform to this most likely scenario, they could lead to a protracted, bloody stalemate along those lines,” Pollack, who served as one of the CIA’s Persian Gulf military analysts during the 1990-91 Gulf War, writes. “In that case, one side or the other would have to receive disproportionately greater military assistance from an outside backer than its adversary to make meaningful territorial gains. Absent that, the fighting will probably continue for years and hundreds of thousands will die.“
Given that the civil war in neighbouring Syria is in its fourth year and the border between the two countries has effectively vanished, the idea that Iraq will also be engulfed in a sectarian civil war is daunting.
This map from June 12 shows the sectarian boundaries int he country (as well as the expanding Kurdish territory):
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