August 31st, 2014
03:31 PM ET

Does Iraq need a second Sunni Awakening?

By Fareed Zakaria

What are the strengths of the Islamic State? I posed this question to two deeply knowledgeable observers – a European diplomat and a former U.S. official – and the picture they painted is worrying, although not hopeless…

…The Islamic State’s military strategy is brutal but also smart. The group’s annual reports – yes, it has issued annual reports since 2012 – detail its military methods and successes to try to impress its backers and funders. The videos posted online of executions are barbaric but strategic. They are designed to sow terror in the minds of opponents, who when facing Islamic State fighters on the battlefield, now reportedly flee rather than fight.

But the most dangerous aspect of the Islamic State, this diplomat believes, is its ideological appeal. It has recruited marginalized, disaffected Sunni youths in Syria and Iraq who believe they are being ruled by apostate regimes. How to handle this challenge?

The American, a former senior administration figure, counsels against pessimism. The Islamic State could be defeated, he said, but it would take a comprehensive and sustained strategy, much like the one that undergirded the surge in Iraq…

…The two observers agreed on one central danger. The temptation to gain immediate military victories over the Islamic State could mean that the United States would end up tacitly partnering Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. This would produce a short-term military gain against the Islamic State but it would be a long-term political disaster. “It would feed the idea that the Sunnis in Iraq and Syria are embattled, that a Crusader Christian-Shiite alliance is persecuting them and that all Sunnis must resist this alien invasion,” the European diplomat said. “The key is that Sunnis must be in the lead against IS. They must be in front of the battlefield.”

Watch the video for the full take or read the WaPo column

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Topics: Fareed's Take

soundoff (239 Responses)
  1. bobcat2u

    First let me start by saying :

    Mr. Marlow was strolling through the country when he saw a stable with the most beautiful horse he ever laid eyes on. It was seventeen hands high and white, with rippling muscles and a fine, flowing mane. Mr. Marlow struck a deal to buy it from the owner who did, however, pass on one key piece of information.

    "We are a religious family, Mr.Marlow, and we've instilled those values in our horse. To get him to gallop you must say 'Thanks God' to get him to stop you must say 'Our Father Who Art in Heaven,"

    Settling into the saddle, Marlow said " Thanks God," and the animal took off. They rode for miles; suddenly they were coming up to a cliff. Unfortunately, Marlow couldn't remember the phrase to make the animal stop and tried every Biblical passage he could think of until, just a few feet from the edge of the cliff, he shouted, " Our Father Who Art in Heaven! The animal stopped instantly. Shaking and perspiring, Marlow reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. "Thanks God," he said as he mopped his brow...

    September 4, 2014 at 11:47 am | Reply
  2. bobcat2u

    First let me start by saying :

    Mr. Marlow was strolling through the country when he saw a stable with the most beautiful horse he ever laid eyes on. It was seventeen hands high and white, with rippling muscles and a fine, flowing mane. Mr. Marlow struck a deal to buy it from the owner who did, however, pa ss on one key piece of information.

    "We are a religious family, Mr.Marlow, and we've instilled those values in our horse. To get him to gallop you must say 'Thanks God' to get him to stop you must say 'Our Father Who Art in Heaven,"

    Settling into the saddle, Marlow said " Thanks God," and the animal took off. They rode for miles; suddenly they were coming up to a cliff. Unfortunately, Marlow couldn't remember the phrase to make the animal stop and tried every Biblical passage he could think of until, just a few feet from the edge of the cliff, he shouted, " Our Father Who Art in Heaven! The animal stopped instantly. Shaking and perspiring, Marlow reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. "Thanks God," he said as he mopped his brow...

    September 4, 2014 at 11:49 am | Reply
  3. bobcat2u

    First let me start by saying :

    Mr. Marlow was strolling through the country when he saw a stable with the most beautiful horse he ever laid eyes on. It was seventeen hands high and white, with rippling muscles and a fine, flowing mane. Mr. Marlow struck a deal to buy it from the owner who did, however, pa ss on one key piece of information.

    "We are a religious family, Mr.Marlow, and we've instilled those values in our horse. To get him to gallop you must say 'Thanks God' to get him to stop you must say 'Our Father Who Art in Heaven,"

    Settling into the saddle, Marlow said " Thanks God," and the animal took off. They rode for miles; suddenly they were coming up to a cliff. Unfortunately, Marlow couldn't remember the phrase to make the animal stop and tried every Biblical pas sage he could think of until, just a few feet from the edge of the cliff, he shouted, " Our Father Who Art in Heaven! The animal stopped instantly. Shaking and perspiring, Marlow reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. "Thanks God," he said as he wiped his brow...

    September 4, 2014 at 11:50 am | Reply
    • banasy©

      Hey, Rawr.
      What's the haps?

      September 4, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  4. chri§§y

    Let me get this straight @ Joey if i disagree with you i must be a troll? I disagree with you mostly because youve turned into Philips twin!! And @ GP big fat furry deal what YOU think! You only pipe up to encourage roem and to fling you tea party crap!

    September 4, 2014 at 11:56 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy (?),
      Just reread my posts carefully.
      I do not think that we should apprehend IS headsmen because the USA should kill them ASAP, along with as many of their collaborators as possible.

      September 4, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        For clarity of reading comprehension, my 12:06 post to @ chrissy:
        (You) just reread (imperative) my posts carefully.
        That you.

        September 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        ERRATUM
        "Thank you."
        Joey

        September 4, 2014 at 12:38 pm |
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    We need to explore diplomacy further.
    Do you think that the IS folks at the UN would enjoy Nobu?

    September 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Reply
  6. Brigham Young

    America = out of control 800 lb Gorilla.......... Ha! Ha! Ha!.......... and it's a purdy dumb gorilla at that......... swatting mozzies in the desert, while Asia laughs all the way to the bank........... boink! boink! boink!............ gotta get those mozzies............. boink! boink! boink!........ oooops, run outta cash, never mind that............... boink! boink! boink!............. oh crap, have no jobs, never mind that............ boink! boink! boink!............ oh dear! half our country lives in poverty, never mind that............ boink! boink! boink!.......... sheeesh! half our people are divorced and on drugs, never mind that............ boink! boink! boink!.......... Yes Sir! gotta keep those war mongers rich rich rich.......... boink! boink! boink!...............

    September 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Reply
    • rupert

      Thank you, Brigham Young. I couldn't have put it better!

      September 6, 2014 at 12:34 am | Reply
  7. chri§§y

    @ Joey per your 12:06 post...how is it that when i said they, the evil beings ie ISIS needed to be exterminated post haste...then YOU claimed i was a troll? But NOW you are saying that very same thing???

    September 4, 2014 at 2:54 pm | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      @ chrissy:
      You appeared to fail to understand what I was saying. You asked when I thought a good time might be to go after them.
      I'd meant that we should not seek the headsmen separately, and certainly not give them a trial, but kill the whole bunch of them, Headsmen & Friends, without discrimination.

      September 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

        I wish that everubody who blogs here would read the book, HOW DOES A POEM MEAN, by John Ciardi, published in 1959.

        September 4, 2014 at 5:08 pm |
  8. chri§§y

    Ah ok then. And that is EXACTLY what i meant thats why i couldnt figure out why you thought we disagreed! And actually extermination is to good for them even!

    September 4, 2014 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  9. rupert

    Tomatoes tomatos. Pharma this. Philip. I'm giving u free advice. Take it.
    Good night!

    September 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Reply
    • Philip

      Not all pharmacy products are the same, Rupert. Holy crap.

      September 5, 2014 at 5:44 am | Reply
      • LaBella

        If it's got Holy Crap in it, do you meet your Maker faster?

        September 7, 2014 at 12:27 pm |
  10. chri§§y

    Lol @ rupert...yep you seem funny to me!

    September 4, 2014 at 11:17 pm | Reply
  11. Qdilse

    Does Iraq need a second Sunni "Awakening"? If it's anything at all like the one back in 2006, I think not!

    September 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm | Reply
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