WASHINGTON, September 29 (RIA Novosti) - The potential exists for an explosion of a sectarian conflict in the Middle East, which could challenge the ability of the United States to engage and operate in the region, Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security, Dr. Nora Bensahel, said on Monday.
"[The] potential for a real regional, sectarian explosion certainly exists," Bensahel said in remarks to a Monday conference at the Center for Strategic International Studies. "If something like that were to occur, the US may be forced to adopt a much different posture in the region," she continued, noting that the United States might be forced into a posture of containment, rather than direct involvement in many countries.
According to Dr. Bensahel, the Department of Defense should seek "creative ways to build in some of that ability in the efforts it's pursuing, again, just as a hedge in case it becomes far, far more difficult for the US to operate in the region."
Dr. Bensahel told RIA Novosti that future threats are "not just a result of linear trends." She noted that current plans for building US and allied military capabilities in the region "assume that the United States still has some room to maneuver" in the future conflict. Regarding an unforeseen escalation of the crisis, she said, that "the element of what comes down to chance and individual developments can spark something very quickly."
The United States is currently leading an international coalition aimed at containing the threat of the Islamic State (IS) and similar terrorist groups, which affect the security in the Middle East.
The IS terrorist group, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has been fighting against the Syrian government since 2012. In June 2014, the IS launched an offensive in northern and western Iraq and declared the establishment of a caliphate on the territories under its control.
Prior to major territorial gains by the IS, most experts failed to foresee the emerging threat of the group, as well as US re-engagement in Iraq, and engagement in Syria.
The US is now conducting airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria, with Arab and European partners providing capabilities. Last week, the State Department released a list of 62 states providing support for the fight to counter IS, with some of the allies providing air support, and others providing training facilities, humanitarian assistance and other aid.
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