Obama Administration

As ISIS Threats to U.S. Get Louder, Where Are Arab Allies?


White House

The Obama administration is hashing out its three-year war strategy against the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS) – airstrikes, funds for moderate rebel forces, and (maybe) ground troops – but there's a big snag: nearby Arab governments aren't making strong commitments to join the fight that almost exclusively affects their region.

From the Los Angeles Times:

President Obama wants to see more specific pledges from allies to join and help pay for the military operation against Islamic State militants before he will give final approval to the Pentagon's war plan, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters. …

"The president has not yet approved the campaign plan in part" because we have not yet completed our work of building the coalition, especially of Arab nations, Dempsey said. "I think that would be the point at which the campaign plan would go into its next phase." …

Two major U.S. allies in the region, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have said they support the operation against Islamic State, but they have so far been ambiguous in public about how they intend to contribute, other than to assist in training Syrian rebels to take on the militants. Turkey, another key regional power with a powerful military, also has said little about whether it intends to join the fight.

Because all three are nations are led by Sunni Muslim governments, their contributions would be particularly helpful undermining ISIS leaders, who claim to be true Sunni believers trying to establish a caliphate, and dissuading other Sunnis from joining ISIS. 

Iran, which is dangerously close to the action, is fighting the Islamic State, but not in a way that much benefits U.S. goals. Iran is backing Shiite Muslim fighters who commit plenty of human rights violations, delegitimize the Baghdad government's authority, and throw a wrench in the Obama administration's hope of shaping a more inclusive political system in the country.

Foreign Affairs last week projected that bombing ISIS will annually cost the U.S. between $2.7 billion and $10 billion. Most of America's western allies, excepting France, have no intention of joining the airstrike campaign. And it's hard to blame any of them. The billions-per-year spent on bombs aren't the only cost the U.S. risks by wading deeper into what is still essentially a regional conflict.

Reuters reports that today Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani called Obama "a mule" and "urged [ISIS's] followers … to attack citizens of the United States, France and other countries which have joined a coalition to destroy the militant group."

It's worth remembering that propaganda with a loud bark is ISIS's style, and that the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership have all acknowledged that the Islamic State poses no credible threat to the American homeland. Trying to knock down this hornets' nest, though, when it's in Saudi Arabia's, Qatar's, and Turkey's backyard, isn't a great way of ensuring that such threats to the U.S. remain hollow.  


NEXT: A. Barton Hinkle on Barack Obama, Imperial President

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Our Arab allies are (correctly) concluding that doing anything on the assumption that Obama has your back is a Bad Idea.

    This here is where we reap what we’ve sown over the last good while. You know, the bits where we fuck our allies and friends in fruitless attempts to make nice to our enemies.

    1. Had we offered just a little moral support to the Iranian students in 2009-10, I would imagine the stature our nation now enjoys in the Middle East would be much greater.

      And the world would be a safer, better place.

      1. I’ve long thought that the only overarching theme of Obama’s ME policies is to ensure that Iran emerges as the regional hegemon.

        Why Sunni governments might be hesitant to get on board with a US that seems bent on ensuring the dominance of their main rival is a puzzler, I admit.

      2. Hey Sloop, you think Jay Cutler is gonna pull you through to the win tonight?

        1. Um, no.

          I’m gonna be lucky to not,come,in,last this season.

          1. If you come in last, do you have to marry the winner? I’m unclear on what the new rules are.

      3. What’s odd is that it is possible to take the moral high ground and get a certain amount of respect, just as it’s possible to get a different kind of respect by being a consistent military force. We’re now neither, hence the lack of respect. Neither feared nor viewed as morally superior.

        1. We lost the moral high ground argument after our experience in Vietnam. The military dominance is going away as well. Odd that we willingly gave them both away.

          1. Vietnam didn’t entirely zap our credibility as the, well, better guys. We had it in the Middle East for a while past that, for instance, but we’ve pissed a lot of it away.

            It’s always dangerous to follow up aggressive power to be feared with random handwringing, with the occasional arbitrary use of force.

    2. I can’t keep up here anymore. My wife retired and I have little time to spend in front of the monitor. I love it, but I hate missing out on many good discussions here.

      Yeah Dean, you beat me to it, and as usual said it very succinctly. Obumbles asks for allies and partners and everyone looks at their shoes and mumble while they try, en mass, to leave the room unnoticed.

  2. “By Allah, I must have left my money in my other robe, but you have my full moral support, Mr. President!”

  3. Isn’t “Arab allies” an oxymoron like “military intelligence” or “Amtrak schedule” or “Aunt Jemima Light”?

    1. Yes. Yes it it.

  4. Where are our Arab allies? I presume they’ve seen Animal House and are not keen to loan us their brother’s car.

  5. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have to tread very lightly.

    The majority of their inhabitants are orthodox Sunni Muslims, and ISIS is a genuine expression of orthodox Sunni Islam. Despite what the part-time Islamic scholar John Kerry says, al-Baghdadi’s credentials, a PhD in Islam Studies and long experience as an imam, make him a more credible authority on Islamic faith and practice.

    If the leadership of the Arab Muslim theocracies openly align with infidels in their opposition to, what is in fact, a genuine expression of orthodox Sunni Islam, the inhabitants of those lands are quite likely to rebel against Arab leadership that is in treacherous alliance with infidels.

    1. Yeah, the “ISIS is not Islamic” party line prevents this issue from being recognized at all, but it is a main contributor to their reluctance. They are afraid of revolt or coup if it comes down to a question of who is the fairest of them all.

  6. The Nobel Prize ceremony isn’t until Dec. Perhaps our Arab Allies are waiting to see who’ll get the Peace Prize and then side him him/her…

  7. OT: John or Sarcasmic pron?

    1. I’m not clicking, but is there actually overlap that makes such a question possible?

      1. Hahaha, “overlap.”

      2. three boobs.

        1. but not terrible looking.

          1. Someone watched Total Recall way too many times?

            1. Is that even possible? That movie is fantastic.

              Tridevil said her extra breast felt like her other breasts, “the only difference is the nipple”, which she had to get tattooed on.
              The 21-year-old saved up for two years so she could have the surgery and is also paying for a film crew to follow her around.
              “My whole dream is to get this show on MTV,” she said.
              “I’m dumping every penny I have into this. If this doesn’t work, I’m through.”

    2. So she is a real life version of the triceri-tits character from Total Recall?

    3. I didn’t have audio on while playing the video, was Goodbye Horses playing in the background? ‘Cause that seems appropriate.

    4. The Florida massage therapist

      You don’t say.

    5. Maybe this starts a titty war. Next up, woman with four five six seven eight breasts

  8. I suspect we are going to see just as much official Arab support and commitment to fight against ISIS as we saw South Asian support for fighting against the Viet Cong.

  9. Say what you want about Bush, but he knew how to manage this process. He had a VP and Sec State who could meet with these people without making a damn fools of themselves.

    Unlike President Tee-time, Bush would put in the time to attempt to build a coalition.

    1. Competent malevolence is not much better than incompetent malevolence.

      They both belong in a jail cell.

  10. Where are our Arab allies, they are sending money and weapons to ISIS.

    Just like they supported al-Qaeda

    1. Every once in a while they yell ‘Squirrel” and point at Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now Iran and we chase after it.

  11. As ISIS Threats to U.S. Get Louder

    Funny, I still can’t hear them from my house

  12. Our Arab allies don’t understand why they should fight a war whose primary beneficiary will be Iran, they’re biggest rival.

    Quite frankly, I don’t understand why the U.S. is fighting a war whose primary beneficiary will be Iran either,

    1. God damn auto-complete effin’ sucks.

  13. We don’t need (and should not want) a coalition for this. ISIS has killed Americans, and has promised to kill more. We need to insert our own armed forces and kill every last one of their 30,000 “fighters.”

    1. We fought alongside of Is in Syria, gave them the weapons and fought against Saddam and McCain was even meeting with them, there is a photo of him floating around on the net with the IS Leader in tow. Did we not make a deal with Al Qaida in Iraq? Did we not sell billions of weapons to the Saudis who then were the Number 1 insurgent in Iraq?

  14. We own this mess and we should have known that meddling in other countries without a reason will bring about a lot of people who hate us. After all, we are involved in 134 wars around the globe, depending on how we view wars. Take the Ukraine for instance, we spent all of 2013 there to upset that country and finance the rebels. The Ukrainians said to be with Russia because they would have been financially better off, and who doesn’t want that. One only has to look at the EU and see those countries in financial trouble. Perhaps most Americans missed the article in December when McCain was in Kiev. Now we are sending students to Cuba to cause havoc there, read that a while back. As General Wesley Clark had said, sooner or later we will own the Middle East! Instead of working with apIran we want to spread lies about their nuclear mission for a better life not as the US does after trying to get every country to downsize with its nukes we now are working on an expansion of those. And yet the people worry about climate change and cow poop while the military is poisoning the earth!

  15. I don’t know if it’s been discussed by other commenters in the prior ISIS bombing threads, but it just suddenly hit me. The Obama administration is fucking Genius. Utter Genius. Whenever I think they’re comprised of semi-literate retards, I realize that somewhere– at least on the political operative side, these people are playing serious chess while the rest of us are playing checkers.

    He just ordered a bombing campaign, a new front in the War on Terror, if you will– and while I know that for the left, it’s a genetically built-in skill to blame everything on Bush, but even this one is tough to pin entirely on Bush.

    Either way, the Obama administration has initiated a military action against an ephemeral group of dubious threat- he has implicitly allied himself with the Assad regime in process, and what is the left doing? They’re completely preoccupied with a goofy climate-change march which is a thinly veiled gr?ve g?n?rale against capitalism.

    Solid… fucking… genius.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.