Most of the states in the Middle East failed in nation building process. In the recent history of Syria and Iraq, there has always been an ethnic or religious group dominating power at the expense of other groups. These states failed to form a collective identity among their own people and overcome religious and ethnic differences. Rather than providing security, the state becomes a source of the threat. People of these countries feel that they are excluded, marginalized and suppressed. Therefore, they are seeking security in other institution, primarily pre-state institutions. They are always looking for their security and representation within the frame of their ethnic or religious group in order to survive. Precisely that is what happened in Iraq, When Sunnis ruled Iraq, and they neglected Shias and Kurds. The same thing happened when Shia majority came to power after 2003. When the Shia emerged from this situation, they attempted to consolidate their grip on power, haunted by the fear of the past. This resulted in, rather than forming an inclusive government, a government based on retribution and exclusively biased toward a particular ethnic group.
Initially, it was hard for the Sunnis to imagine their new position of not being in power. Sheer democracy was not in their favor. One could take this fear of democracy as a cause for relying on anti-democratic groups for their attempts to come back. This is exemplified in the domination of radical terrorist Islamic group and the Ba’thist on the Sunni political landscape. It should be highlighted that the way Sunni exploited the terrorist groups for their local gains, in the similar way the terrorist groups exploited the Sunni agonies for their global jihadist agenda: whether fighting the Americans or the Iraqi government.
To put it in a nutshell, the ISIS exploited the post-Saddam massive fear among the Sunni community. It Invested on the sense of anger at the mostly Shia-dominated Iraqi Army and Security forces. According to Intelligence reports, the majority of ISIS fighters are the young and neglected Sunnis. This interdependent relationship Between Sunni and ISIS did not last long when the ISIS executed some of the Sunni leaders in Mosul. They realized that the ISIS is not the real defender of their rights, but rather used them as the fuel of the ISIS war against everybody and just subjected them to war, which might threat their existence in Iraq. Personally, I found that the ISIS is a project to counter the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a mixture of Islamic extremists and some former nationalist Iraqi officers. With the extending Iranian leverage and influence throughout the region, others started to think about drawing a red line to stop the Iranian influence –Classical Security Dilemma.
Moreover, Sunni states in the region could play a crucial role. Their participation in this fight against Islamic extremism is indispensable, as they would undermine the legitimacy of ISIS in the Islamic world and isolate them from the sympathy of the Sunni communities. Meanwhile, we should stay cautious about activities of the Shia pro-Iranian militias. The presence of these groups in the Sunni areas legitimizes the ISIS and would possibly trigger a bloodier conflict around the entire region.
The latest development in the region reminds us of the bloody civil war in Balkans. After the death of Tito, former Yugoslavia fell into one of the bloodiest wars in Europe. Eventually, the country disintegrated, each group managed to establish their own state, which now coexists peacefully. Likewise, security and stability of the Middle East require redrawing of the boundaries. We need responsible, strong, coherent, rational, and functioning states that represent their own people instead of fragile states that exclude people and suppress them.
*Darwn Rahim is a Ph.D. candidate at Erfurt University in Germany. He holds an MA in National Security Studies from the German Armed Forces University. He has served as the personal assistant to the Kurdistan Parliament Speaker from May 2014 to October 2015.