A member of the Saudi border guards force looks through binoculars on Saudi Arabia's northern borderline with Iraq, July 14, 2014.
Faisal Al Nasser / Courtesy Reuters

The stunning recent military successes by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have triggered a wave of gloomy prognoses about the demise of the Sykes-Picot regional order in the Levant and the withering away of the Iraqi and Syrian territorial states. However, the stakes are higher than the disintegration of what have always been permeable borders and the collapse of a long bygone Anglo-French agreement. Indeed, this year could mark the birth of a new regional order, one that dismisses the all-too-realist geopolitical contests of the past and clings, instead, to sectarianism. 

The trend toward sectarianism in otherwise realist geopolitical contests commenced shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq and has culminated, for now, in ISIS’ blitzkrieg throughout the country. In other words, ISIS’ gains are consecrating rather than creating the politicization of narrow and exclusionary sectarian, ethnic, religious, and tribal identities, which appeared to

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  • BASSEL F. SALLOUKH is Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Political Science at the Lebanese American University (LAU).
  • More By Bassel F. Salloukh