So now President Obama wants to organize a coalition to take on ISIS, the group whose rise he ignored on the theory that it was the terrorist “jayvee.” Arab states — notably Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan — and Turkey are to be key members of the coalition.It seems that when you spend most of your tenure at the White House stabbing US allies in the back, those allies are no longer willing to back you up when the chips are down.
Obama assigns these states primary responsibility for mobilizing Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. Presumably, Obama also wants their financial support and their help in cutting off funds to ISIS.
But there’s a problem: the Arab states don’t trust Obama.
President Obama, in a televised speech Wednesday night detailing his strategy for confronting the Islamic State, stressed U.S. support for the new Iraqi government’s effort to promote unity and enlisting Arab partners’ help to mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria against the group.Now why would they think that?
But already there is a disinclination to believe his promises, said Mustafa Alani of the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.
“We have reached a low point of trust in this administration,” he said. “We think in a time of crisis Mr. Obama will walk away from everyone if it means saving his own skin.”
Different countries are suspicious of the United States for different reasons, but all feel betrayed in some way by recent U.S. policies, said Salman Shaikh of the Brookings Doha Institute in Qatar.There's that whole incompetence thing rearing its ugly head, as it so often does with Obama.
“They see the security threat posed by the Islamic State. They want it defeated, because at the end of the day, the Islamic State overturns states, and as states, they are threatened,” he said.
However, he said, “there’s this nagging doubt that this strategy is intended just to serve American interests and not the broader interests of the region.”
Most Arab states see the Obama administration as having created the conditions that enabled the Islamic State to thrive by not being more helpful to moderates in Syria and by continuing to back Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in Iraq — long after it became clear that he was pursuing policies that were alienating the country’s Sunni minority.
Driving the concerns is the memory of Obama’s turnabout on Syria a year ago, when the White House did not follow through on a threat to bomb Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in response to its alleged use of chemical weapons. Obama instead struck a deal with the Assad government to dismantle its chemical arsenal.Obama's personal guarantee? Kerry's personal guarantee? Right, like those are worth anything.
The reversal was the culmination of a series of disappointments for Arab supporters of the Syrian rebels who felt that the Obama administration had not kept its promises to aid the anti-Assad opposition. Obama has already said that existing plans to empower the Syrian rebels will be implemented as part of the new strategy against the Islamic State.
But, asked Jamal Khashoggi, an influential Saudi journalist who runs Al Arab TV channel: “What guarantees do we have that what happened a year ago won’t be repeated again?”
The tacit alliance that has emerged in Iraq between the United States and Iran is further stirring unease that the new strategy will only further empower Iran and its Shiite allies at the expense of Sunni influence in the region. The example of the town of Amerli, where U.S. airstrikes helped Iranian-backed Shiite militias rescue the Shiite Turkmen town from a siege by the Islamic State, illustrated the ways in which the focus on defeating the Islamic State risks reinforcing Iranian influence, Alani said.Obama's insistence on "negotiating" with Iran, always beyond stupid, is paying "dividends" in new and exciting ways. Now our allies don't trust us at all because we insist on giving in to their enemy -- and our enemy as well.
To Saudi Arabia and its gulf allies, the threat posed by Iran is at least as potent as that of the Islamic State, said Imad al-Salamey, a professor of political science at Lebanese American University in Beirut.
“In a strategic sense, the Islamic State does not pose a strategic threat to the gulf states the way Iran does,” he said, pointing to Arab concerns about expanding Iranian influence elsewhere in the region, including in Yemen, Lebanon and Bahrain.
Obama has dispatched John Kerry to the Middle East to rally the Arab states around Obama’s latest project. I suspect that the very appearance of our pretentious, foghorn Secretary of State, who not that long ago thought Assad was the key to lasting peace in the region, will reinforce the well-founded doubts about Obama’s seriousness and good faith.So how "broad" is this "coalition of partners?"
Saudi Arabia? No.
Egypt? 'Fraid not.
United Arab Emirates? Nope.
This "broad coalition" is starting to look like Monty Python's Cheese Shop.
The mere suggestion of which got State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf's boxers in a bunch:
MATT LEE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: The Saudis apparently don’t want to speak for themselves, that’s the problem. The Germans said they are not going to participate militarily, you have the Turks saying that, you have the British foreign secretary clearly uninformed about his own government’s position on this.These people are complete idiots.
HARF: Why do you always focus on what people say they won’t do instead of the plethora of things they have said they will do? What is that what you focus — that’s actually not an unfair question, I don’t think, when we focus on our effort here.