Their uniform response was that they would ally with anyone, including the madmen of ISIS, to drive the Shia government of Baghdad out of Sunni areas. They added that secession from Shia Baghdad was all but inevitable. Some said that if history favored them, they would unite with the Sunnis of Syria to form a single nation. As for ISIS and the jihadists, they would turn on them when the time came.
Letting the jihadists serve as your spearhead may sound risky to us, but what it tell us is that the divide between Iraq’s Sunnis and Shia is truly unbridgeable. To be sure, we’re capable of militarily destroying ISIS and eliminating its leadership. But Sunni grievances will remain — and there will always be another Sunni strongman to take up the cudgel.
Which brings me to this: the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement gave the world the Middle East’s modern borders. Drawn up in secret by French and British colonial administrators, those borders had — and still have — nothing to do with cultural and ethnic realities. This begs the question of whether it is really in our interests to defend artificial borders by waging endless war and campaigns of political murder.
The fact is that we are likely living what amount to the final agonies of the Ottoman Empire. If that’s the case, drone assassinations and targeted killings will get us absolutely nowhere.