Today CNN is lauding that the US is not going at it alone against the scum of the earth known as ISIS, ISIL, or whatever they want to call themselves. They have found allies in the most unexpected of places, the Middle East. These countries includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar.
There are many reasons why this coalition is very interesting. To begin, historically countries in the Middle East have been reluctant to proactively side with Western actions within the borders of their neighboring countries. They may be in favor of regime change and use backdoor diplomatic channels to express such beliefs, but it is beyond rare to see them publicly support, let alone openly participate in such displeasure.
So why besides the obvious opposition to ISIS extremism are these historically neutral countries suddenly willing to take sides with the West? CNN political commentator Peter Beinhart’s calls it “a remarkable diplomatic achievement.” He commented, “I don’t think it was expected that there would be this much Arab support.”
Mildly put, he is being short-sighted. While I agree with his statement that “Prominent religious leaders have said ISIS is not representative of Islam,” his conclusion that “now you have countries that are coming to the fore to attack it,” is naive.
Let’s examine what this coalition has in common: Every participating country is comprised of a rich ruling family that have warranted fears that their reign may soon be undone. Their participation has nothing to do with their views on religion and everything to do with money. Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the Middle East, with the strictest social policies in the region could not afford to overlook the threat that an ISIS revolution could have not only on its economy but also with containing its suppressed people who are devoid of many human rights. Next, the UAE which has transformed itself from its lowly beginning in the pearling industry to an economic powerhouse is also at risk from ISIS momentum. The UAE has become an icon of evil to radical groups like ISIS that see its modernization as a sacrilegious aberration from the tenets of Islam. An ISIS state would also threaten Qatar whose wealth has skyrocketed while many questions remain as to whom the Qatari government pledge their allegiance. Countries like Bahrain which have withstood the progression of the Arab Spring by threat and use of violence could ill afford the instability within its own borders that an ISIS advancement would produce.
Which brings us to Syria, the country that receives the undeserved positive externality from outside military intervention. In 2011, President Obama stated that Bashir al-Assad must go. Three years ago it was unthinkable that the US and its allies could conduct air strikes within Syria without staunch opposition from the Assad regime. Today, it’s ostensibly welcomed because Assad’s biggest threat to power is no longer the Western world but ISIS.
Where does this all leave us? Not with the doe-eyed, optimistic outlook that Mr. Beinhart would lead us to believe, but with the harsh reality that rejoicing in the coalition of the self-serving today will inevitably turn into lamenting in the coalition of the undeserving tomorrow.
It is clear that ISIS must go but so must Assad and everyone else.