Weaponizing Sectarianism in Iraq and Syria
The last six years of insurgency, rebellion, and war have eroded territorial state sovereignty in Iraq and Syria. The scale and savagery of the war have transformed Sunni-Shia sectarianism into a zero-sum politics of survival. In other words, residents of Iraq and Syria have been forced to choose between Sunnis and Shia in order to survive. This essay explains how the diverging interests of foreign actors—Iran, the Islamic State and other Salafi-Jihadi foreign fighters, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United States—prolonged the war, providing the time and space for the belligerents in Iraq and Syria to weaponize sectarianism.