Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts Militants – Ben Hubbard, Robert F. Worth and Michael R. Gordon
The bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds.
Foreign powers imposing agendas on the region, and the police-state tactics of Arab despots, had never allowed communities to work out their long-simmering enmities. But these divides, largely benign during times of peace, have grown steadily more toxic since the Iranian revolution of 1979. The events of recent years left the state weak, borders blurred, and people resorting to older loyalties for safety.
The sectarian policies of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki and the absence of American ground and air forces gave Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a local Sunni insurgency that had become a spent force, a golden opportunity to rebuild its reputation. Rebranding itself as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the group seized territory in rebel-held parts of Syria, where it now aspires to erase the border between the two countries and carve out a haven for its transnational, jihadistproject. (New York Times)