Tags: ISIS/Islamic State | Middle East | ISIS | Arab countries

Arab Countries Give Half-Hearted Support to US Fight Against ISIS

By    |   Friday, 12 September 2014 09:21 AM

Arab countries are giving tepid support to the U.S. effort against the Islamic State (ISIS), having been disillusioned with the American withdrawal of troops from Iraq under President Barack Obama, The New York Times reported.

Allies such as Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey have so far avoided making specific commitment to the U.S.-led strategy outlined by the president Wednesday, posing a potential complication for the successful execution of his plans.

"As a student of terrorism for the last 30 years, I am afraid of that formula of 'supporting the American effort,'" Diaa Rashwan, a scholar at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, told the Times. "It is very dangerous."

In a joint statement Thursday, at least 10 Arab states vowed to "do their share" in the fight against ISIS but the tone was one of underlying reluctance, according to the Times.

Egypt, for example, said it was already consumed with its own fight against terrorism while Jordan's King Abdullah II told Secretary of State John Kerry that the "Palestinian cause remains the core of the conflict in the region."

Turkey, meanwhile, continues to be concerned about attacks across its border and the 49 hostages in the hands of the extremists group and declined to sign on to the statement.

Secretary of State John Kerry met Turkish leaders on Friday to try to win support for U.S.-led military action against Islamic State, but Ankara's reluctance to play a frontline role showed the difficulty of building a coalition for a regional war.

Turkey, a NATO member which shares long borders with both Syria and Iraq, is one of Washington's main allies in the region but has so far conspicuously avoided committing to the new military campaign.

U.S. officials on Friday downplayed hopes of persuading Ankara to take a significant role in any military involvement, saying the talks would focus on issues including Turkey's efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters crossing its territory and its role in providing humanitarian assistance.

Some blame the United States for the rise of ISIS by failing to intervene to help Syrian insurgent groups tackle the threat earlier, according to the Times.

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, blasted Arab countries for their reluctance to take up the mantle in the fight against the extremist group.

"Are you kidding? This is the U.S. Fight against Isis not their fight?" Sach said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Friday morning during a discussion of the Times' story.

In a blog for the Huffington Post entitled "Let the Middle East Fight Its Own War on ISIS," Sachs argued that the U.S. was to blame for the rise of the militant organization and that Arab countries have the power to take the lead in confronting ISIS if they so choose.

"The regional powers should take the lead in confronting ISIS, not the U.S.," Sachs wrote. "In this case the enemy of our enemy is actually a thug, not a friend," he said, and went on to compare the conflict to the Vietnam War.

On "Morning Joe" on Friday, Sachs said, "They let the U.S. take all the heat, all the expenses, all the action, and they stand back and say that's the U.S. war."

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt are at odds with Qatar and Turkey because of the latter two countries' support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in the region.

Egypt's foreign minister, Sameh Shukri, emphasized that rift in his opening remarks, saying regional chaos is the result of a number of factors, including the tolerance of some in the region and the West for "so-called political Islam" — a clear dig at supporters of the Brotherhood.

American officials have voiced concerns too about the willingness of Kuwait and Qatar to crack down on private fundraising for extremist groups.

In Turkey, Pro-government newspapers on Friday welcomed Ankara's reluctance to take a front-line role in the coalition, questioning whether U.S.-led military action was the answer and drawing parallels to 2003, when Turkey's parliament rejected a U.S. request to use Turkish territory to invade Iraq.

"The U.S. administration's air strikes are notorious in terms of the civilian deaths they cause," wrote Hilal Kaplan, a columnist in the pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper.

"To prevent such a strategy from leaving Sunnis who are already fed up with the oppressive Shi'ite hegemony in Iraq more dependant on IS is something that needs to be discussed."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.

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Arab countries are giving tepid support to the U.S. effort against the Islamic State (ISIS), having been disillusioned with the American withdrawal of troops from Iraq under President Barack Obama, The New York Times reported.
Middle East, ISIS, Arab countries
Friday, 12 September 2014 09:21 AM
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