For months now, ISIS has controlled “more than half” of Syria’s territory. Al-Qaeda controls the Idlib Province, and they and various other factions control the border with Jordan. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been acting as de facto independent for over a year, seizing disputed territory including the city of Kirkuk, while ISIS holds much of Western Iraq, including the major city of Mosul, which they’ve had for over a year.
It’s worth asking at this point whether Syria and Iraq are even a thing anymore, or indeed if they’ll become a thing again in the future. While the official US stance is “yes,” Pentagon intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart conceded at a defense conference today that he has “a tough time” seeing either nation ever really coming back together.
Lt. Gen. Stewart said he had a hard time envisioning the Kurds returning to Iraqi central government rule, and that he can envision Syria being fractured into “two or three parts,” though the US goal in both cases is to try to maintain the states as they exist on the map right now.
Most are loathe to admit the reality, that these splits have in many ways already happened, and CIA Director James Brennan maintained that both Iraq and Syria still have the same borders, it’s just that neither one actually controls those borders. That recognition, however, reflects that de jure Syria and Iraq are dramatically different from de facto Syria and Iraq, and that how they appear on the map is increasingly irrelevant.