Iraq threatens to become a mirror of Syria, with Iran supporting a proxy Shiite army and the Gulf states siding with Sunni Islamists who will fight against Shiite-Iranian dominance of the region. Some experts talk of the “de facto partition” of Iraq into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite zones. This may apply to the self- sufficient Kurds. It is a rather bland description of an endless, bloody civil war between Sunni and Shiite Iraqis, both determined to rule the entire country.
If Syria is any indication, the result will be mass atrocities, mass refugee movements, massive humanitarian needs and the loss of a generation of young people to dreams of revenge. But there is another outcome, more urgently related to U.S. security: the establishment of a dangerous, lavishly funded terrorist movement (ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), in territorial havens across two countries, under a leader (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) with ambitions to be the next Osama bin Laden, served by jihadists from countries around the world, including hundreds from the United States and Europe. It is a threat that makes the Taliban-al-Qaeda connection look trifling in comparison.
This is a foreign policy crisis in which the most disastrous outcomes are the most likely outcomes. And the proper response to such urgent national problems, after a deep breath, is to belay the partisanship, and support (not uncritically, but genuinely) President Obama and his foreign policy team in some very difficult tasks.