US Foreign Policy

The Escalating Shi’a-Sunni Conflict: Assessing The Role Of ISIS

Today, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) controls and effectively governs large parts of territory based on a sectarian agenda. By implementing an ideology of religious intolerance, ISIS plays a significant role in deepening the already existing sectarian divide in a region deeply embroiled in conflict. Its appeal namely lies in its ability to offer an alternative to many communities that have felt marginalized and threatened in the past, and more so since the Arab uprisings began.  

Given its anti-Shi’a agenda, did ISIS capitalize on the conditions in Iraq and the Levant or did it help create them? Does ISIS have the potential to spread to other countries in the region where there is a sectarian problem, such as Lebanon? What is the potential for the US to push back on the ISIS march? Is Washington throwing money at the problem or are US military efforts actually making a difference on the ground? In the third event in a series of four, discussants address these issues, with a particular focus on Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

WHAT: Panel discussion on the role of ISIS in the escalating violence between Shi’a and Sunni Muslims in the Middle East.  This discussion is the third in our series on sectarianism in the Middle East.
FOLLOW: @StimsonCenter on Twitter for news on our Middle East program, and use #StimsonToday to join event conversations.


Joseph Bahout, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Program, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Joseph Bahout is a Visiting Scholar in Carnegie’s Middle East Program. His research focuses on political developments in Lebanon and Syria, regional spillover from the Syrian crisis, and identity politics across the region. Previously, Bahout served as a Permanent Consultant for the Policy Planning Unit at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009–2014). He was a Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at Sciences Po Paris (2005–2014) and a Senior Fellow at Académie Diplomatique Internationale (2008–2014). He also served as a Professor of Political Sociology and International Relations at Université Saint-Joseph in Lebanon (1993–2004), and a Researcher at the Beirut-based Centre d’Etudes et de Recherches sur le Moyen-Orient Contemporain (1993–2000).  
Omar Al-Nidawi, Director for Iraq, Gryphon Partners LLC
Omar Al-Nidawi is the Director for Iraq at Gryphon Partners, LLC. He works on the company’s consulting engagements with a focus on Iraq, energy, and the Middle East. He is a highly regarded Iraq analyst and co-author of the award winning blog, Iraq the Model. In his native Iraq, Omar was a pioneer of Internet journalism and a strong advocate for freedom of expression, earning recognition by World PC Magazine in 2007 as one of the “50 most important people on the web.” He is the author of numerous articles and reports on Iraq and is frequently published in the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers. He is fluent in Arabic. He earned his B.S. from Baghdad University and his M.A. from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Geneive Abdo (Moderator), Fellow, Middle East Program, The Stimson Center
Geneive Abdo is a Fellow in Stimson’s Middle East program as well as a Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution. She specializes in issues regarding modern Iran and political Islam. She is also the author of three books, and the recently published monograph, “The New Sectarianism: The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shi’a- Sunni Divide,” published in April 2013 by the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

View video below or here.

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