With Al Qaeda-linked groups taking control of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and seeking also to control the western province of Anbar, and similar if not identical groups seeking to create the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, merging parts of both Syria and Iraq, this is no time for the Maliki and Obama governments to permit whatever distrust and disharmony that has existed between them to prevent their joint and mutually supportive resistance of the Al Qaeda actions and especially of their motives.
Maliki's government is Shia, and it is the Sunni rebels who believe they have been mistreated by his regime; Syria's government, under Assad, an Alawite a sect of Shia Islam, is also fighting rebels of various pedigrees, both pro-western and pro-Al Qaeda.
There are some reports to the tribal leaders in Anbar, also Sunni, could be brought into the fight against Al Qaeda insurgents, on the premise that they, too, feel more aligned with Maliki's government than do the rebel, terrorist insurgents.
Maliki, while seeking support from the U.S. and having achieved both intelligence and drone surveillance, is suspicious of U.S. secretly gathering information that would undermine his government.
Obama, on the other hand, has to be pondering just how far his government can and should become engaged in this most recent attempt to establish a new Islamic state, comprising parts of both Iraq and Syria.
The U.S. is in no mood to march back into another ground war in the Middle East. While there are and always will be hawks in Congress urging action by the administration, the prospect that the recent spike in violence in Iraq foreshadows the departure from Afghanistan of U.S. troops in 2014 must leave Obama and his generals and Secretaries of both State and Defence in a quandary as to just how to manage their exit, and the ensuing violence that Al Qaeda-linked terrorists would seek to bring to that country.
Obama is in one of the tightest spots on foreign policy of his two terms. If he steps up military support for Maliki, against the Islamic terrorists who are determined to establish their new Islamic state, he will find his forces mired amidst forces that could be considered "friendly and forces that would obviously be "enemy" without there being adequate distinctions to tell the differences. Already weapons for the rebels in Syria who are 'western-leaning' have fallen into the hands of the AlQaeda-linked forces, embarrassing the U.S. whose motives were honourable and transparent, yet whose actions were subverted by the terrorists.
There is nothing the terrorists will stop at to achieve their new Islamic state, and the creation of such a state will alter dramatically the political, military, economic and legal landscape of the Middle East.
However, for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons will also dramatically alter the Middle East
Both prospects face the Obama administration, without clear and readily available options for maintaining the level of "purchased influence" the U.S. has "enjoyed" over the last half century, under the multiple regimes of U.S. puppet dictators.
Perhaps, the ubiquitous behemoth known as the U.S. is now finding, in real time, and in real places, that its behemoth military and its behemoth bank accounts, and its behemoth arrogance are no longer adequate for the foes and the forces of those foes it faces in a very different kind of war of sectarian insurrection.
For the superpower to have and to maintain significant influence among these combatants, whether they consider themselves friends or foes, or are trying to play both roles simultaneously (as Pakistan has does for decades) the U.S. will need more than its hard power arsenal, and its "purchasing power" and its historic reputation as the world policeman; it will need something that heretofore has been something it could purchase, trust.
And if that trust is lacking, especially among those like Maliki, who have come to power through the substantial and sacrificial efforts of the U.S. government and its military, then one has to wonder just what accomplishments the Bush intervention in Iraq achieved. If the new regime that could only hold office as a direct consequence of U.S. invasion and engagement in their civil war, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, is no longer willing or able to negotiate in good faith with their once-benefactor and mentor, then what good has come of the thousands of lives that have been lost, and the thousands of other lives that have been permanently maimed through the Iraq war?
And if the common enemy, Al Qaeda, is not enough to bring both the western world, including the U.S, and the Iraqi government to the table to join forces to defeat that enemy, then just who is the U.S. and the western world to trust among the many faces of Islam?
And if the many faces of Islam, including those who espouse and are committed to random acts of terror, are essentially in league, then the west has to prepare for a century-long period of excessive insecurity and turbulence, without knowing if and when the violence we can expect will recede, if not end.