A sort of coalition of the very unwilling 2

President Obama does not want to take action agains the Islamic State. But opinion polls have forced him to utter some platitudes about keeping America safe and the Islamic State being a bad thing (though “not Islamic”, he says), and to make a military gesture or two by sending a few American personnel to Iraq and having the US Air Force bomb a few IS sites. But you mustn’t call it aggressive war, what he’s doing. If it must be called “war” at all, then it must be something the whole world wants to do so the US has no choice but to go along with the wish of so overwhelming a community.

He has sent that great negotiator John Kerry. who has a record of success in his diplomatic ventures (being sarcastic here), to form a coalition.

And it looks as if Kerry will be as successful as ever he was. He has not managed to form a coalition. Not with Arab states. Not with Islamic states. Not with European states.

Iraq might say it will join, but it has only a diminished and intimidated army.

Egypt and Jordan have refused to join.

Turkey has not only refused, but has denied airbases on its territory for US or any other airstrikes against IS.

Britain and Germany will send arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces to fight IS, but will not take part directly in the fighting.

France … Ah, France! President Francois Hollande is as eager to lead the chimerical coalition as President Obama is reluctant to do it. Last Friday he personally accompanied a vast amount of materiel to Baghdad. He plans to host the occasion in Paris on Monday when – if – a coalition will  be formed. And he has invited Iran to participate.

Our information comes largely from DebkaFile, from which we quote the following:

Friday, Obama appointed Gen. John R. Allen, former commander in Afghanistan and western Iraq, to lead the coalition forces in the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levan.

It is hard to see what combat forces he will lead, in view of the mixed international responses so far to Washington’s appeals for a global coalition to combat terror.

In the years 2006-2008, Gen. Allen commanded the US II Marine Expeditionary Force, which successfully fought Al Qaeda under Musab Zarqawi’s leadership in western Iraq’s Anbar province. He led what was then dubbed the “Awakening” project, which rallied the region’s Sunni tribes to the fight.

President Obama appears to be hinging his campaign against the new Islamist scourge on Gen. Allen repeating that success. …

The prospects of this happening in 2014 are fairly slim, because the circumstances are so different:

1. To support the Sunni Awakening venture, President George W. Bush authorized the famous “surge” which placed an additional 70,000 US troops on the Iraqi battlefield. However, Obama has vowed not to send US combat troops back to Iraq in significant numbers, and has approved no more than a few hundred American military personnel.

2.  In 2006, Iraqi Sunnis trusted American pledges. They agreed to turn around and fight fellow Sunni Al Qaeda after being assured by Washington that they would not lose their status and rights in Baghdad, and that the US would give them weapons and salaries. In 2009, they realized that the Obama administration would not stand by the Bush administration’s assurances. Their disillusion with America and the rise of a Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad pushed them into the arms of ISIS.

3. Since then Iraq’s Sunni leaders have learned not to trust anyone. Today, they are hedging their bets, their tribal leaders split into two opposing camps between Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and the Islamic State, on the other. For the first time since the US invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein 11 years ago, Iraq’s Sunni leaders feel they are in the saddle and in a position to set a high price for their support.

All this leaves President Obama and Gen. Allen on the threshold of a war on Islamist terrorists, which everyone agrees needs to be fought without delay, but without enough political leverage for going forward or much chance of mustering the right troops to lead – even into the first battle.

  • jbecker

    Our comments section looks different because Disqus has upgraded us.

    Some facilities seem to have been accidentally downgraded or lost in the process.

    We hope to restore the facility for “like” and “unlike” soon.

  • liz

    I imagine it will limp along like this, for lack of leadership, until (and if) we get someone elected who has something even remotely resembling that quality.