As the world looks on in horror at the atrocities being committed by Isis following their victorious rampage through northern Iraq, there is no consensus on what if anything can be done.
Isis has been advertising its ruthlessness by making public pictures of the executions of captured Iraqi soldiers.
The images are meant to terrorize Iraq’s majority Shia community and largely Shia government.
The question America is asking itself is – can it stand idly by and watch the slaughter of Shias, or should it step in and help the Shia government and perhaps facilitate the slaughter of Sunnis?
When President Obama talks about the need for a new political framework alongside military action he is highlighting the sectarian nature of the existing political framework.
The Maliki government is detested by the Sunni community. And it is some indictment that Sunnis here in northern Iraq prefer the writ of the medieval misogynists of Isis to that of the administration in Baghdad.
Now appears to be the perfect time for Nouri al-Maliki to reconcile with Sunni opponents of Isis and with the Kurds.
Surely they can find common cause in fighting against the radical Islamists.
But no, there has been no outreach by the Iraqi leader. Instead he is concentrating on battle plans for his Shia army and their fellow-travellers in the Shia militias.
Like the Americans, the Iranians have also been encouraging Mr Maliki to be politically inclusive. But so far it just hasn’t happened.
And in the absence of any sincere political accommodation a long and bloody sectarian war is unavoidable.