(Washington) – As the situation in Iraq continues to evolve, experts from the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) are closely following developments. In addition to the observations below, they are available for analysis and comment as the crisis continues.
Manal Omar, associate vice president, provides an overview of the issues involved for Iraq and the United States:
The current situation in Iraq reflects a larger challenge facing U.S. involvement in the Middle East and North Africa. The conflicts are no longer geographically bound to one country, but have begun to bleed into one another. The Syria conflict, tension in Lebanon, and the role of regional players tremendously impact the future of Iraq. With over a decade of investment from the U.S. and international community, it is imperative that Iraq not be left alone. There remains to be diplomatic and political solutions that need to be facilitated by international and regional actors in order to guarantee commitments. A military solution alone can potentially foster more violence and enter into prolonged conflict for the region.
As Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad, Robin Wright, senior fellow at USIP, posted her most recent analysis in The New Yorker, stating:
The primary American mission is to help rebuild the house of cards that is the Iraqi government—a political challenge almost as daunting as devising a strategy to beat back the alienated Sunni forces in the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The goal is to prevent Iraq from becoming another Lebanon, where sectarian tensions over a power-sharing formula dragged on in a fifteen-year civil war, despite repeated American diplomatic interventions and attempts to rebuild the national army.
Sarhang Hamasaeed, senior program officer with the Institute's Iraq program, provides addition insights into the trouble of a negotiated solution:
No amount of firepower or military action will address Iraq's problems without a political solution. But it is important to recognize that since 2003, the Iraqi leaders often needed an external mediator to reach agreements, with the facilitator serving as arbiter and enforcer of the pact. Until 2012, it was a role often played by the United States. Secretary Kerry's visit to the region and the activation of American military advisers are steps in the right direction, but can only succeed with active and continued U.S. engagement.
Unfortunately we are witnessing conflict in Syria and Iraq devolve into worst case scenarios analysts and commentators have long-warned could transpire absent decisive regional and international engagement to mitigate violence and stabilize both sides of the border. The rapid growth of ISIS' influence threatens not only the future of Iraq and Syria, but of the entire region. Containing and preventing further violence will require the cooperation of regional and international actors and a recognition that no single conflict can be approached without consideration of and attention to another.
These experts are available for additional comment at:
### The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan conflict management center created by Congress to prevent and mitigate international conflict through nonviolent means. USIP works to save lives, increase the government's ability to deal with conflicts before they escalate, reduce government costs, and enhance national security. USIP is headquartered in Washington, DC. To learn more, visit www.usip.org.