Is The Anti-ISIS Coalition Coalescing?

The Obama administration is now saying that “several” Arab countries will participate in an air war against ISIS but won’t say which:

Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking from Paris, declined to say which states had offered to contribute air power, an announcement that White House officials said could await his return to testify in Congress early this week. State Department officials, who asked not to be identified under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters, said Arab nations could participate in an air campaign against ISIS in other ways without dropping bombs, such as by flying arms to Iraqi or Kurdish forces, conducting reconnaissance flights or providing logistical support and refueling. “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that these Arab members haven’t offered to do airstrikes, because several of them have,” one State Department official said.

Ian Black considers the interests of our likely partners, saying Arab support is symbolically important but might not be that helpful:

Military capability is not a problem: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar together have hundreds of advanced fighter aircraft, though the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has next to no experience of coordination. Politically, however, fighting with the US would require greater determination than they have yet shown to tackle the jihadis who have sent shockwaves across the region.

Offers of help – most likely from the Emiratis and Saudis – attest to the gravity of the situation. Washington may be cautious given that the Iraqi military has extensive experience of working with the US but none with the Gulf states. The UAE is the most assertive country in the GCC and recently sent jets to Egypt to bomb Islamist targets in Libya. But the more reluctant royals in Riyadh may prefer to be told they can make a more useful contribution in counter-extremism messaging, bankrolling Iraqi tribes or training Syrian rebels.

The administration continues to insist that Iran will not be part of our anti-ISIS coalition, but Jack Goldstone argues that we need them in this fight:

If Iran can be persuaded to adopt a similar role in Syria to the role it is already accepting in Iraq—assent to an inclusive, majority-led but minority-respecting regime, with the United States playing an active role in supporting the military forces of the government—and therefore to withdraw its active support of Assad, Iran can align itself with the broader Sunni coalition that President Obama is seeking to back a political solution in Syria. Creating such an alignment will be incredibly difficult, but it could bring huge benefits to the entire Middle East. Beyond the immediate crisis of ISIL in Syria and Iraq, co-operation between the United States and Iran, and between Iran and Sunni states in the region, in supporting inclusive states in both Syria and Iraq could help to reduce the Sunni-Shia rifts that have kept the region in turmoil.

Khamenei claims we actually did invite Iran into the coalition, but he turned us down:

“Right from the start, the United States asked through its ambassador in Iraq whether we could cooperate against Daesh,” Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei said in a statement on his official website, using the Arabic acronym for IS. “I said no, because they have dirty hands,” said Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state in the Islamic Republic. “Secretary of State (John Kerry) personally asked (Iranian counterpart) Mohammad Javad Zarif and he rejected the request,” said Khamenei, who was leaving hospital after what doctors said was successful prostate surgery.

At the same time, Allahpundit doesn’t see how we realistically dismantle ISIS in Syria without Assad’s help:

[I]t’s not Americans who are going to be fighting street to street in ISIS’s Syrian capital, Raqqa. That’s so far afield politically from what Obama promised on Wednesday night, it’s hard to believe voters would ever tolerate the casualties. It’s also hard to believe any “moderate” rebel force will be strong enough within the next, say, five years to do that fighting for us. If anyone’s going to do it, it’s going to be — ta da — Assad’s troops, with Iranian backing. Right? And that assumes that Assad will have the means and motive for reconquering cities in Syria now held by ISIS. If the U.S. can hem ISIS in to a few strongholds like Raqqa, maybe Assad will be content to leave them alone there while he re-consolidates power in the rest of the country. Why, we might even end up with U.S. and Syrian air assets bombing Raqqa in tandem informally. Either way, to truly “destroy” ISIS, there’s bound to be some sort of quiet coordination with Assad at some point.

By way of explaining its reluctance to participate in this war, Adam Taylor takes a look at Turkey’s complicated relationship with ISIS:

Turkey’s entanglement with the Islamic State goes deeper than the hostages, however. Turkey shares a long border with Syria, and some towns in southern Turkey ended up becoming staging grounds for Islamist rebel fighters, including the Islamic State, in the early days of the Syrian war. Ankara tolerated their presence, apparently believing that anything bad for Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime was good for Turkey.

They were wrong. As Anthony Faiola and Souad Mekhennet reported for The Post this year, Turkey did eventually crack down on the Islamist fighters, but only after things began to go bad for Turkey: Last year,  the border town of Reyhanlı was hit by a wave of bombings that were blamed on the Islamic State, and there are fears that the extremist group might try further to provoke and destabilize Turkey.

And Rami Khouri is skeptical of the entire coalition-building endeavor:

Announcing a coalition before its members are on board is an amateurish way of operating, because it makes the local players – Arab governments of already mixed legitimacy in this case – look like hapless fools who snap to attention when an American gives the order. Washington is correct to say that a combination of effective local military action and inclusive domestic political systems are required for progress in destroying ISIS, in Iraq especially. I lack confidence in this aspect of the American approach because it is foolhardy to expect that such important requirements can be forged quickly and in the heat of battle – after the U.S. has just spent a full decade and trillions of dollars in Iraq trying but failing to achieve precisely those two important goals. We can even see some counterproductive consequences of the U.S. legacy, such as rampaging ISIS troops taking from the retreating Iraqi security forces the fine arms and equipment that Washington had provided.