The Arabs are in. Turkey is on the fence. Britain, still smarting from an earlier Iraq war, is cautiously edging toward expanded action. Even Greece wants to help – if someone would tell it how.
Two weeks after he announced plans to form a “broad coalition” to fight the militant group ISIL, President Barack Obama’s hopes for international support for actions in Iraq and Syria appear to be gelling.
But it remains to be seen whether this motley global crew, whose members have widely differing goals, can hang together for a mission that Obama has acknowledged could last for years, and which is bound to encounter difficulties – as well as both military and civilian casualties.
“The common threat gives the president an ability to bring together a broader coalition,” said former US ambassador Edward Djerejian, who was involved in an earlier US-led coalition to oust Iraq’s Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991. Ironically, that coalition included Syria.
It is more than 23 years since Arab countries last made common cause to join US-led military action, and it has taken the threat of ISIL to persuade them that any public backlash in an already turbulent region is a price worth paying.
Of the five Arab states named by Washington as supporting US-led strikes against the jihadist group in Syria, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) confirmed they had actually flown sorties. Saudi Arabia said it had “participated in military operations”, and Qatar was believed to have offered only logistical or political support.
But association with the attacks, after years of US-led wars that have antagonised Muslims around the world, is a risk these states are ready to run to quash a group that promises to refashion the Middle East as an Islamic caliphate.
“We see ISIL as an existential threat. If we don’t put a stop to it, it will expand into our area,” said Sami Al Faraj, an adviser to the Gulf Cooperation Council, which groups together Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
Even though American warplanes dropped what a US general said was the “preponderance” of bombs and missiles, the Arab participation was significant in geopolitical terms, US and other Western officials said.
It was meant to undercut ISIL’s argument that it is at war with the West, they said.
The Gulf Arab states have at times backed different factions in Syria’s civil war, and Washington has accused private individuals in the Gulf of funneling money to ISIL. Saudi Arabia and its neighbours could face violent retaliation from militants opposed to military cooperation with the United States. Jordan, meanwhile, is struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees that have crossed its borders.
Still, a senior State Department official said there was “total unanimity” at a meeting between the Arab nations involved in the strikes, Obama and Kerry. The countries committed to stick with the campaign “for the long haul” the official said. Source: Arabian Business