5 Steps the U.S. Can Take to Help Stop the Killing in Iraq


  1. Reject more U.S. military intervention, which would increase violence. More than two decades of U.S. sanctions and military intervention in Iraq have inflamed political and sectarian divisions.  The formation and strengthening of ISIS and other extremist groups in Iraq are a direct result of U.S. military intervention. More air strikes, more and other forms of military intervention would only escalate the bloodshed. 
  2. Publicly support a comprehensive political settlement between the key parties to the conflict, inside and outside of Iraq. Given U.S. support for the al-Maliki government, the Obama administration can help advance political reconciliation efforts by encouraging Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to negotiate with tribal leaders and other opposition political leaders in Sunni-majority provinces. Internally, political reconciliation efforts must address the systemic political and economic marginalization of Iraqis in Sunni-majority provinces that have led to the current crisis. A political accommodation must address rampant environmental and resource inequalities that have exacerbated underlying political tensions. 
  3. Halt unconditional military aid to Iraq.  Iraq’s security forces have functioned as sectarian militias that have committed rampant human rights abuses. More unconditional military aid for any of the warring parties to the conflict will only fuel lead to more violence. For decades, the U.S. has promoted policies that have increased sectarian divisions.  The U.S.-created Governing Council, established in 2003, was the first time in Iraq’s contemporary history where leaders of the country were selected along sectarian lines. The U.S. approach of arming so-called “Awakening Councils” in Iraq created divisions, and now the U.S. arming one side in a multi-sided civil war in Iraq only delays prospects for a political solution. 
  4. U.S. should convene a conference to establish a comprehensive arms embargo to Iraq and Syria. The U.S. should call for, support and offer its good offices to convene a conference that includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and other countries sending weapons to armed opposition groups in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has seized control of U.S. weapons provided both to Iraqi security forces and to armed opposition groups in Syria, highlighting the need for an arms embargo in both Iraq and Syria. The conference should also include Iran and other countries that like the United States have provided weapons to the Iraqi government’s security forces. External military intervention from the United States and other countries obstruct efforts of the Iraqi people who are working to shape their own destiny, and carve out a more peaceful future for their country. 
  5. Increase and better allocate humanitarian funds to address humanitarian crisis. Decades of U.S. sanctions and military intervention have led to the displacement, injury, and deaths of millions of Iraqis.  If the basic needs of Iraqis are left unattended, this will only serve to further destabilize Iraq and embolden extremist groups like ISIS.

Written by FCNL. Cross-posted with permission.