Iraq’s neighboring powerbrokers

When the United States withdrew its troops in 2011, Iraq descended progressively into sectarian strife that has degenerated into all-out civil war. Islamist groups – particularly Sunnis who feel spurned by the Shiite-dominated government of Nouri al-Maliki – have been fighting to affirm their leverage over tribes and cities. The quick advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), one of the major Islamic groups in Iraq and Syria, has created a dilemma for the West and the regional powers of the Middle East: Should they intervene to keep ISIS from tearing Iraq apart?
Any such intervention would pose a number of problems. First and foremost, instability. In the opinion of Toby Dodge, author of Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism, the root causes of the ISIS offensive are to be found in the policies of Maliki, which have emarginated large parts of the population. Another issue is the ultimate aim of the intervention. Such an action presupposes a state-building project that at the moment is hard to envisage.  
These intractable difficulties might be seen as a recipe for stalemate. As such, Iraq may become a battleground for regional hegemony among its neighboring powers. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Iran are all vying to exercise leverage in the region. Now they have a great opportunity to implement their strategic plans – if they have any – throughout the Middle East.