In what might be the bloodiest partition since that of India and Pakistan in 1947, Iraq is on the verge of civil war that may break the country into three. While in Pakistan we closely watch our own war with terrorism in Operation Zarb-e-Azb, we need to make sure we don’t get sucked into another regional war. Pakistan’s involvement will depend on how Saudi Arabia, Iran and the US play their hand, and what alliances are made in the coming days.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has already taken over three towns in Iraq: Mosul, Takreet, and Tal Afar. ISIS is battling the Alawites in Syria and the Shia-led government in Iraq in a full-blown sectarian war, while the Kurds in North Iraq want to stay out of the fray and ensure their territorial sovereignty. The US was backing these Sunni jihadists against the Syrian government, bit their ruthless killing and plundering in Iraq has alarmed the US and the world. Iran will of course become party to the conflict, having the world’s largest Shia population. Iran has already sent troops into some parts of Iraq and the US might cooperate with Iran to send arms to the Iraqi government.

Like a Lernaean Hydra, transnational Islamic terrorism has become a bigger problem than anyone imagined. And while groups like Al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS have indeed acted like a multi-headed monster; blame must also be put in the sword that cut the first head creating two more. In a delusional statement, Tony Blair has said that what is happening in Iraq today had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq after 9/11. Obama made a promise to end the Iraq War in his presidential campaign and said he had never supported the invasion, but the specter of Iraq continues to haunt the US. Pakistan has now owned its war against militants in North Waziristan, but taking sides on Iraq is the last thing we can afford. Pakistan’s leadership should stay decisively out of this war and not come under any external pressure.

Pakistan, with the second largest Shia population, faces huge risk from this conflict. We have had our own fair share of sectarian violence in the past and Sunni militant groups continue to target Shias. The Taliban and associated militias are a handful already, and the cause of a homogenous Sunni land with a Caliphate will make things worse. Already the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a fundamentalist militant group, has found a friend in the Pakistani Taliban. ISIS can do the same. Pakistan will have to choose sides when the US and Iran join hands, and Saudi Arabia’s influence and coin purse will not make it easy for us.