The latest move on the U.S. fight against the Islamic State (IS) militant group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, comes with help from Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State John Kerry met with world leaders on Thursday, September 11 to discuss working together against IS. Saudi Arabia has agreed to provide a location for a possible training camp for “moderate” Syrian rebels. Other world leaders have also met with Kerry to discuss a strategy near and around IS headquarter locations in Syria.
According to Michael R. Gordon of the New York Times, the U.S. will work with 10 Arab states to prevent IS from gaining resources, including finances and volunteers. Although it was unclear if these states would aid in airstrikes, the leaders of such places as Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq have agreed to do their fair share of stopping IS from advancement. Recently, the IS had taken over major cities in both Syria and Iraq which caused civilians to flee from their hometowns. President Obama ordered airstrikes to aid Iraq in combating IS militant forces and protect U.S. personnel inside Iraq. Since then, IS has allegedly made videos threatening U.S. and U.K. hostages if airstrikes do not stop in Iraq.
After Obama publicly addressed a strategy against IS in both Iraq and Syria on Wednesday, September 10, news surfaced that the Obama administration would order airstrikes in Syria. It is unclear whether this will actually take place even though the Los Angeles Times recently reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is now considering allowing the U.S. to conduct airstrikes against IS militants in Syria as long as Damascus is made aware of such military events. Prior to such reports, President Assad was not in agreement with allowing the U.S. to enter into Syria airspace to conduct such airstrikes.
A report from The Washington Post stated joining forces with Saudi Arabia may be beneficial, but tricky. Ishaan Tharoor stated the state’s ideology is taken from draconian laws “derived from a strict Wahhabist interpretation of Islamic doctrine.” Tharoor added that according to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had executed 22 people within two weeks last month, with eight of those executions taking place in the form of beheadings. Because the U.S. has recently sought help from Saudi Arabia after two American journalists were beheaded, Tharoor describes the irony of such promised assistance.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to help the U.S. fight against ISIS by potentially providing a training camp for Syrian rebels. Even though the idea to train rebels was reported as a way to bypass involvement by Syrian government and combat IS militants, the U.S. may be taking a risk in training such rebels. To start, some Twitter users have speculated that the U.S. has provided previous training to rebels which resulted in them not only joining IS militants, but utilizing training offered by the U.S. Others have expressed that the Iraqi government needs to develop leadership and military forces to prevent IS from further advancement, but with little aid from the U.S.
Even though Arab state leaders have expressed support in backing the U.S.’ military-led agenda against ISIS, The Wall Street Journal reported a conference in Paris which occurred on Monday, September 15 had left some of these leaders hesitant after discussions with Russia took place. Stacy Meichtry, Jay Solomon and Maria Abi-Habib reported that Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, had stated Iran and Syria are Russia’s ally, and any fight against IS in Syria should ultimately be discussed with Damascus and even Tehran. Though Saudi Arabia and other neighboring states in the Middle East may have promised to help the U.S. fight against ISIS, it appears it also depends on the motives of neighboring allies to Syria as well.
Opinion by Liz Pimentel