Muftic: The Middle East rallies against ISIS |

Muftic: The Middle East rallies against ISIS

Felicia Muftic
Courtesy Photo |

Middle Eastern governments needed to fight ISIS are awakening. New winds are blowing thanks to both ISIS’ miscalculations and changes in our allies’ leadership.

U.S. strategy is to avoid Iraq II by keeping our engagement limited to air support, the spotters, trainers, and equipment needed to help local allies on the ground engage in the actual combat role and joint air support. It has been an uphill climb for many complicated reasons to get our allies to join us. That is changing.

The Nouri al- Maliki left in control post-occupation of Iraq became a Shia despot, refusing to share power with Sunnis and Kurds and replaced the U.S. trained military leadership with incompetent cronies. ISIS, comprised of Sunnis and al-Qaida in Iraq, exploited that. Only when al -Maliki stepped down in August 2014 could the U.S. begin to get the Iraqi army up to snuff and better equip the Kurds.

Complicating the matter is that Sunnis and ISIS are also engaged in a power struggle with Shia in Iran and in Iraq. Arab Sunni kings and emirs allied with the U.S. had feared to jeopardize their hold on power since they had many subjects sympathetic to ISIS.

When ISIS burned to death a Sunni Jordanian pilot, Arab Sunni leaders and their streets turned against ISIS. It was a gross miscalculation on ISIS’ part. Jordan’s chief religious leaders condemned ISIS as un-Islamic and gave the King of Jordan political and religious cover to engage wholeheartedly. The United Arab Emirates joined with Jordan.

Saudi Arabia had nurtured the Wahhabi-Salafist puritanical violent jihadist form of Islam that permits killing of innocents. ISIS embraced the same interpretation. Some Saudi princes were a source of funding of ISIS. An elderly king did little to curb it. With the new King Salman, Saudi Arabian’s top Muslim cleric on Feb. 23 denounced “terrorist groups … who have opted for savage and barbaric practices.” King Salman proclaimed “terrorism is a scourge which is the product of extremist ideology … It is a threat to our Muslim nation and to the entire world.”

An Egyptian secular military dictatorship replaced the Muslim Brotherhood in a 2013 coup. The Christian Coptic community was subjected to persecution. ISIS affiliates, trying to position themselves as the savior of Islam against Christian crusaders, beheaded 21 Egyptian Coptic guest workers in Libya. If they thought Egypt would not care, they miscalculated, and Egypt took to the air in revenge.

Turkey is not quite on board as it still sees ISIS as the enemy of their enemies, the Kurds and Shia.

While critics quibble over details of the president’s execution of his foreign policy, they propose only more volume of the same. Lest we forget, his policy is a reaction to George W. Bush’s historical blunder of invading Iraq that resulted in a 12-year occupation costing the U.S. $3 trillion and lives of 6,000 troops, changed the balance of power to favor Iran by crippling Iraq, gave birth to Isis, and elected President Obama twice favoring his policy of withdrawal.

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