On Thursday, influential sheikhs and tribal leaders from the mostly Sunni province of Anbar released a statement condemning the Iraqi government and pledging their allegiance to Islamic State (IS); calling them the only realistic opportunity for the region to achieve peace. The Iraqi forces, which recently lost control of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, to IS now face an even steeper task; which requires them to not only combat the terrorist group, but the local population as well. Elsewhere, this feeling of disenchantment with the US led collation’s actions has led to political infighting between the members. On Tuesday, foreign ministers and representatives from the 24 nations that make up the coalition met in Paris to discuss the future of this never-ending war, and the discussion regressed to a blame game between the Iraqi delegation and the US; both of whom accuse the other of not doing enough – far cry from the optimism that filled the ranks after the initial victories against IS at Sinjar and Tikrit. Has the western policy against IS failed? Does it require a major overhaul? The present situation in Iraq and Syria suggests that it does.

Fortunately the fault doesn’t lie in the coalition’s model of warfare – which uses local ground forces and provides intelligence, air support and weapons to them – it lies in the political handling of the situation. The use of Shia militias has been effective, yet the Iraqi government and the coalition has failed to politically own up to these militias; prompting Sunni quarters to grow suspicions of their role and to view them as the bigger threat – a narrative Saudi Arabia had a huge hand in building. Linked to this, the coalition has also failed to effectively oversee the activities of the myriad of militias that support it, allowing their wonton atrocities to damage Iraqi state credibility. The Kurdish forces are content to patrol the borders of Kurdistan while Turkey languishes at its own border, ignoring the chaos beyond. The coalition needs to exert greater political ownership to make these various cogs work smoothly together.