Nussaibah Younis: To Defeat Islamic State in Iraq, Bridge the Sunni-Shiite Divide

In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Senior Research Associate Nussaibah Younis describes the steps that the United States must take to defeat Islamic State beyond an authorization of military force.

The U.S. must start by publicly condemning its allies in the Muslim world when they oppress their own Shiite populations, and by investing in services and infrastructure in the Shiite south of Iraq.

Washington also needs to put pressure on its allies in the Gulf to invest in rebuilding Sunni areas of Iraq that have been destroyed by ISIS—a move that would free up more of the Iraqi budget for the development of impoverished Shiite areas. For Iraqi Shiites, such Gulf support could be seen as restitution for the role they believe Gulf states have played in enabling ISIS, while allowing the Gulf states to support the anti-ISIS effort without making a direct investment in the Shiite-led government.

Such recognition of Shiite grievances would give the Abadi government the leverage it needs to push Shiite legislators into agreeing to pro-Sunni concessions that are vital for ridding Iraq of ISIS for good. In the context of plummeting oil prices, the Abadi government simply cannot afford to pursue this strategy without U.S. support.

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