The thunder over Syria is a victory for President Obama’s diplomacy. Maybe he has more insights into Muslim politics than other foreign policy areas.
No matter what or how, this is one of those rare win-win events. America gets very welcome cover for air attacks against Muslim targets. Muslim nations flying combat missions with our planes also will give Putin pause before he does something rash to protect President Assad in Syria. Putin may be happy to maintain and defend his naval base in Syria and leave the air war uncontested by Russian threats. Iran also may not be willing to militarily confront a powerful Sunni military and political coalition. I’m sure one of the prices we paid for Saudi, U.A.E., Jordanian, Qatar and Bahrain’s support is our agreement to defend them against external attacks.
In any agreement, it’s always instructive to understand the strategic and tactical goals of your allies. Our allies in the air war against ISIS have clear goals. They do not want a powerful Sunni radical nation on their borders. Many of the Muslims butchered by ISIS were Sunnis. Some of the ISIS military units were once funded by members of our new Muslim air war allies. King Saud and the U.A.E. have been funding and equipping a proxy war against President Assad’s Syrian Shiite regime for a few years. They have fighters on the ground. Now they have the freedom to provide air support for their fighters. The same Muslim air sorties can also punish any units that have double-crossed them and joined ISIS. It seems the U.A.E. has command and control to direct the Muslim air war. They have better intelligence on the ground where their fighting units are engaged with Assad then we do. It is still a win-win but getting rid of Assad’s Alawite (Shiite) Regime may rank higher with our Muslim air coalition than defeating ISIS in Iraq.
Bringing Saudi Arabia into the air war against ISIS is a very big deal. President Obama must have upgraded his foreign policy team. Openly talking about bringing Iran into the war against ISIS was a brilliant move. Nothing would make the Saudis move faster than the possibility of an American/Iran alliance in their front yard. We don’t have boots-on-the-ground but the military and diplomatic war against ISIS has moved several squares forward.