I believe that several changes must happen in the Middle East before there is hope for peace there:
1) The US military must cease operations that might result in civilian casualties. I know that unlike many insurgents, the US military tries to minimize civilian casualties. I also know that many US soldiers are tired of Iraq and want very badly to go home. But as long as the US military is in Iraq, they should try harder to avoid civilian casualties and concentrate more on defending and training the Iraqi security forces. The US should also provide the Iraqi military with the best equipment. The Iraq Study Group found that Iraqi "Units lack equipment. They cannot carry out their missions without adequate equipment. Congress has been generous in funding requests for U.S. troops, but it has resisted fully funding Iraqi forces. The entire appropriation for Iraqi defense forces for FY 2006 ($3 billion) is less than the United States currently spends in Iraq every two weeks."
2) The Kurds will eventually have their country, and the Arabs must accept this. So must the Turks. The Kurds already have a de facto Kurdish state within Iraq, and it is much more functional and peaceful than Baghdad. The Iraqi Kurds have autonomy, they have security, and their economy is growing. We never hear about bombings in Sulaymaniya, and even Kirkuk, where many Arabs live, is relatively safe. We don't see the division between Sunna and Shia among the Kurds.
3) There must be democracy in Iraq, and the people of Anbar must participate in the Iraqi government without fear of being murdered. All Arabs must support democracy in Iraq. The Saudis and other Sunni Arab states must stop supporting the Sunni insurgency. The good people of Anbar must rise up and support the Iraqi army and police. The Anbar Salvation Council must be involved in defending Anbar against terrorists and mafiosi. Insurgents who continue to murder the relatives of government employees must be found and arrested or killed. From the Iraq Study Group report: "Insurgents wage a campaign of intimidation against Sunni leaders — assassinating the family members of those who do participate in the government. Too often, insurgents tolerate and cooperate with al Qaeda, as they share a mutual interest in attacking U.S. and Shia forces. However, Sunni Arab tribal leaders in Anbar province recently took the positive step of agreeing to pursue al Qaeda and foreign fighters in their midst, and have started to take action on those commitments."
The Sunni Arabs in Iraq will not have complete control of Iraq, but they must be a part of the government if Iraq is to remain united. This does not mean that there will never be another Sunni Arab President or Prime Minister in Iraq. The big cheese in Iraq can be a Sunni Arab, as long he is good to the people. King Faisal was a Sunni from Saudi Arabia (before there was a Saudia Arabia), yet he is to this day one of the most popular leaders in Iraqi history. It seems that no tyrant was needed to 'suppress greater horrors' until 1963, after Qasim nationalized Iraq's oil.
4) Splitting Iraq between Sunna and Shia will not happen in Iraq because Iraqis do not want it to happen, but if Anbar becomes unmanageable; if insurgents in Anbar continue to attack Iraqi army and police, the Iraqi military and government will eventually abandon Anbar. Shia groups only started discussing the forming of a Shii state in 2005. Even if Anbar secedes from Iraq (or if the Shia secede), a split between Sunna and Shia in Baghdad and in the rest of Iraq is not feasible, because there are Shia towns in Sunni areas (like Dujail) and there are Sunni enclaves all over the south. Zeyad has some good maps that show the sectarian demographics in Iraq and Baghdad.
5) The Shia of Iraq will share the oil wealth with the people of Anbar, as long as Anbar remains part of Iraq. Of course oil is what the insurgents fight for. Oil brings money, and money brings power. So let us make sure that the people of Anbar understand that they will share the oil and the power in Iraq if they join the government.
6) Iran must stop its support for Shia militias, and the sectarian militias must stop murdering innocent Iraqis. All Shia must realize that Iraq can never be like Iran, and the Iranian regime and Iraqis who spent years in Iran must realize that a theocracy will not work in Iraq. It barely works in Iran, and the Iranian people are nowhere near being free. The Iranian regime is the Shii version of the Taliban, and I don't want to see it in Iraq. Baghdad Treasure has told me stories of fundamentalist Shia (presumably Mehdi army) killing people for the silliest reasons, like having a spare tire in your trunk - you are not relying solely on God if you carry a spare tire in your trunk. It seems that in 2006 elements of the Mehdi army have been emulating the Iranian regime, or maybe they are competing with al Qaeda in terms of religious zealotry. This kind of mentality will result in educated Iraqis fleeing Iraq, and the brain drain has already begun (although educated Iraqis have been fleeing Iraq since the 70s). It will take at least a generation for the fundamentalists in Iraq to change, and it will change only if the Shia masses become educated and truly free, without Iranian influence. Investments in education, free access to media, and a free economy in Iraq will hasten this important change that must take place in order for Iraq to succeed.
7) There must be a peaceful and just solution to the conflict between Palestine and Israel. The US must pressure Israel to support an independent, contiguous and viable Palestinian state. Many people have argued that the Palestinians could have had a state in 2000, but if I were Yasser Arafat, I would not have signed such an agreement. Barak's 'generous offers' were a slap in the face of Palestinians, who have already given up 78% of their historic homeland so that Jews can 'live in peace' in their own country where they are a majority of the population. Next time the US tries to mediate between Israel and Palestine, they should not send a closet zionist like Dennis Ross to referee. The formula should be simple: towns and villages with Arab majorities belong to Palestine, and towns with Jewish majorities belong to Israel. The Israeli settlers who think they can get away with attacking Palestinian farmers and human rights workers must move back to Tel Aviv, Brooklyn or wherever they came from. I would also argue that Gaza should be connected to the West Bank somehow - it is the only way for Palestine to be truly contiguous.
A one state solution is a dream that may be impossible to achieve. So we should be pragmatic in the short term and strive to achieve what is achievable. The other important and major issue is the Palestinian refugees scattered throughout the world. Palestinian refugees who have lost their homes in the last 60 years must be compensated. One would think that a portion of the billions of dollars in cash Israel receives every year can be used to fairly compensate the Palestinians who were not allowed to return to their homes in 1948, 1967, and during other wars. One would also think that Arab countries like Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq would allow Palestinian refugees who live there to buy property and become ordinary citizens of those countries. It would be a stimulus to the economies of those countries, after all. We must not allow this wound to fester any further. I believe that justice for the Palestinians coupled with democracy in Iraq will result in a Middle East peace that has never been seen before.