Regardless of al-Douri’s fate, this month’s uprising puts JRTN in a considerably stronger position. It may be that the Baath can achieve a partial, qualified return to power—perhaps with a deal between the federal government and JRTN-led Sunni Arab military councils over the formation of one or more federal regions in Sunni Arab Iraq, each with its own constitution and parliament, akin to the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Indeed, there are strong parallels to the way Iraqi Kurdistan was born as an autonomous region by the collapse of Hussein’s military in 1991. In Baghdad in March, a senior Sunni politician joked with me that perhaps one day the Americans would extend a no-fly zone over a post-uprising Sunni Iraq as it once did with the fledgling Kurdish autonomous zone in 1991. That may be a little ambitious, but the outcome that a handful of U.S. intelligence officers predicted—a subterranean Baathist “return” cocooned within a nationalist uprising—may be closer than ever. Failing a unified response by Iraq’s political factions, JRTN may also represent the best chance of stopping ISIS from forming an Islamic caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.