Speaking from the State Floor in the White House on Wednesday 10th September, President Barack Obama addressed America on the situation in Iraq, and the US' strategy to "degrade and destroy" ISIS. During the 14 minute speech, Obama stated that the US will be working with its allies in the region to carry out a coordinated military campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The irony behind the formation of the biggest Arab military coalition since the 1967 Six Day War, is that since ISIS' announcement of the Caliphate, the world has consistently heard from western leaders how it was neither 'Islamic' nor a 'state'. While US Secretary of State, John Kerry, rallied America's Arab proxies to join this frenzied coalition, the general public in the West and the Muslim world are left wondering - how big a threat is ISIS?
A document entitled the 'Jeddah Communiqué' was issued after intense diplomatic talks took place in Saudi Arabia last week. The Arab signatories of this pact agreed to crackdown on ISIS' financial donors and stop the influx of foreign fighters, which are vital priorities for Washington. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon along with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) expressed their commitment to directly participate in the war effort, stating they would be "as appropriate, joining in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign" against ISIS.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey warned senators that every military option proposed by Obama would be "costly and uncertain." Last year, General Dempsey told Congress that training Syrian rebel forces would cost $500m per year - the sum Obama is currently asking Congress to approve. Ironically, Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, told NBC that Bashar al-Assad would have "no reservations whatsoever" about US air strikes against ISIS' nucleus in Raqqa.
With the Middle East's biggest players coming together under the US-led campaign against ISIS, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to Marvel's Avengers Assemble. While Obama can justifiably play the lead role of Nick Fury, is ISIS on the other hand as formidable as Loki? With the military capability of the GCC and Egypt alone, what chance does ISIS really have against a unified effort by neighbouring states? Who would have thought that Iran and the US would be working together in training and arming the Iraqi army? Or that Saudi Arabia and Iran would find a common enemy to protect their Sykes-Picot borders? And most surprising to the ignorant among us, Assad indirectly consenting to US airstrikes against ISIS in Syria for its own survival. With the unlikeliest of alliances merging together against an arguably small (in numbers) but common enemy, you can't blame spectators for thinking whether this is the apocalyptic showdown between the forces of good and the army of the anti-Christ!
Call it a predictable long shot or a calculated stab in the dark, but I think this well-organised task force to defeat ISIS is being overplayed before the war has even begun. The thrones of the Jeddah Communiqué signatories have been trembling since the Arab Spring. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have brutally silenced internal dissent since the uprisings began in North Africa. Qatar remains a sympathiser to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, whose democratically elected president was removed via a military coup by Abdel Fatah al-Sisi - a key US ally. Lebanon has faced the brunt of Syria's sectarian conflict, and fears ISIS' tentacles reaching the heart of its religiously divided nation. Jordan, the most paranoid of the Avenger states, has a reason for suffering from insomnia - unaffected by the Arab Spring, ISIS is getting closer to its north eastern border with Iraq. The US has tactically manoeuvred its foreign policy by using the physical threat posed by ISIS to lobby its Arab allies. Furthermore, it has intentionally left out the Hulk - Israel - from its Avengers task force, knowing full well that its inclusion would delegitimise the effort due to the region's deep rooted resentment towards the Zionist state, perceiving it as a far greater evil than ISIS.
As I've mentioned in previous articles and interviews, the only entities that have given ISIS the credence and legitimacy of a 'state' are western governments and the mainstream media. Paradoxically, both have claimed that ISIS is neither 'Islamic' nor a 'state', but at the same time the West's military ambitions to thwart a militia, which was born out of the US-led invasion of Iraq, would suggest otherwise.
The only conclusion that I have reached which justifies a coalition of 40 countries to eliminate ISIS, is because the US is adamant in protecting its geopolitical and economic interests in the Middle East. This is also a perfect opportunity for America to reassert its position as the commander-in-chief of the 'civilised world', after its embarrassing failure to contain Russia's military activities in Ukraine. Additionally, if Obama succeeds in eradicating a self-professed Islamic State, it would also be an ideological victory over the genuine aspiration for a Caliphate in the future.