With regards to ISIS, the US is keen to resolve the escalation of sectarian conflicts in Iraq, with the Iraqi government playing a truant; the regime which the US helped bring into power after Saddam. With Iraqi sectarian leadership furthering the schism and chaos, the US appeared to have little interest in extending absolute support to the Maliki regime in Baghdad, until he was replaced by a moderate consensus candidate Haider Al Abadi in August 2014.

Coming eastward to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the focus is mostly on the ‘War on terror’. The US is fully aware of the consequences of terrorism, which it learnt from its experiences both in Iraq and Afghanistan. They spent more than a decade in those countries; however they could not bring lasting peace to either. Jihadi militants are now more potent than ever before. They are better equipped, better funded and more skilled at guerrilla warfare. Most importantly, they are highly motivated compared to feeble national military forces raised in the aftermath of the American invasion. Recently they even managed to kill a US Major General in Kabul. Despite President Obama’s previous claim of having control over the situation in the region, it may well be that he will now rethink and consult with allies before formulating policies to tackle the multitude of cataclysmic events in the Middle East.

The events taking place in the Middle East hold major potential towards radically altering the geo-political landscape here and everywhere. Apocalyptic turmoil across states within this region can affect the world, and it especially ought to be a serious concern given most of the world is going through significant political and economic upheavals, involving pain, grief and popular discontent. All this is crucial to economic and strategic structures across the world, given the huge reserves of oil in the region, understood to be 30% of all global reserves. Therefore, instability in the region can cause escalation of crude oil prices, having a certain knock-on effect across the world. Recent civil unrest in Libya and Syria can influence other countries of the region such as Turkey, Lebanon and Iran.

As for the concerns of the Arab nations, the Cairo-based Arab League has held only one meeting during the latest crisis, reflecting friction amongst the Arab states at odds over other issues such as last year’s army overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood head of state in Egypt. Arab states have not been united on how to handle their general distaste for Assad and Maliki, with the understanding that the only fighting forces capable of undermining these two governments are those with an Islamist bent like the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamic State. But then these two forces are also threats to other military and royal kingdoms of the Arab region. This explains the overall lack of coordinated policy and why OPEC is not reacting even though Iraq contributes 80% of OPEC’s oil production. The prices of crude oil have shot up from 105 to 115 pounds sterling per barrel due to this crisis.

A common, unified Arab vision on regional security and political developments either in Syria or Iraq is non-existent. Like their Iranian and Turkish counterparts, most Arab regimes are exploiting domestic contradictions in individual states to further their own regional perspectives. These disputes are increasingly viewed through a Sunni-Shia sectarian prism, which restricts the scope for political compromises. At this point, there is no Arab consensus on ending the conflicts or re-establishing stability. Even the UN has been a helpless witness to the escalating crisis in Gaza and the Security Council has not been able to pass a resolution despite several drafts put before it. So far it is just calling on the parties for a ceasefire.

Now the matter is before the UN General Assembly. On the ISIS issue too, the UN has been ineffectual. Only the US and European Union have shown some concern but they cannot stop the fighting as they are unwilling to send their ground forces or use aerial bombing against rebel forces. Under these circumstances, the prognosis for peace in the region is grim. Will peace descend on the hapless civilian population whose livelihood, infrastructure, education and health have been severely affected in the last few months? All we can do for now, is keep our fingers crossed, and prayers steadfast on our lips.

n    The writer is a freelance columnist.