An international coalition of 20 countries is approaching Iraq’s ISIS problem from a proper angle. The coalition understands that ISIS is a Sunni-dominated movement and if there is any hope of fighting it in Iraq, the relationship between Sunnis and Shias there has to be strengthened. This coalition is on the right track. Understanding the dynamics of ISIS is what will help fight it, and acknowledging the ideological stances that ISIS holds against Iraq is a positive step forward. Therefore, why does it take so many nations to team up and fight movement like ISIS, when it is concentrated in Iraq and Syria?
Prime Minister of Iraq Haider al-Abadi met with the coalition in Paris, but he rejected the idea that Baghdad is not trying hard enough to build better relations with Sunnis. Al-Abadi agrees that a vital move in combating the Islamic State is to gather forces from Shia and Sunni communities. Still, he claims that the world has failed him, because Iraq has not been receiving nearly enough support to fight ISIS. He even pointed out that a number of the nations in the coalition have had citizens leave to join ISIS as foreign fighters, which is the very reason, if any, that these nations should be concerned about countering ISIS.
The United States has provided support, and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken pointed out that the coalition has certainly made progress since Daesh (an alternative name for ISIS) has lost 25 percent of the land it had captured, and a lot of manpower and weapons. The U.S. even has anti-tank weapons being sent to Iraq. Therefore, if the US is aiding Iraq, where are all the other Middle East nations in the equation?
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the UAE all took part in air strikes in Syria, and condemned ISIS. Saudi Arabia even contributed $100 million to the UN-Counter-Terrorism Center and $500 million in humanitarian aid. It also made a commitment to host a training camp for Syrian fighters. The contributions of these infamously rich Arab nations is not enough, though. What is interesting about a nation like Saudi Arabia contributing to counter-terrorism groups is that it is amongst the nations who make things more difficult for counter-terrorism projects. When a monarchy has opponents that question the ways of the rulers, it can take a wide range of measures, and unfortunately the measures taken in the Middle East nations include labeling nonviolent opponents as “terrorists” making counter-terrorism efforts even more tedious. Recently, the UAE placed CAIR (Counsel on American-Islamic Relations) on a terror list. CAIR is a group of civil rights lawyers in America who fight against issues such as discrimination. The UAE allowed itself to be threatened by a group that operates in a different nation under a different constitution and regime-type. If the people who are fighting terrorism cannot even differentiate between who is and who is not actually a terrorist, the efficiency is hindered. Aside from monetary donations and broad air-strikes, these nations can do a lot more to help the fight against ISIS.
The UK, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Czech Republic, Estonia, Albania, and the Netherlands are amongst the nations that provided monetary and material aid to Iraq. These nations are not geographically close to Iraq, they do not even sit on the same continent. However, they have sent weapons to help fight ISIS while the wealthy oil nations who share broad cultural characteristics with Iraq have only participated in air strikes. Even Lebanon has said that it will not send weapons or troops but it will “receive military help to fight the organization through the army.” The nations that have stepped up to help do understand that ISIS holds the potential of a global threat, and that the world has a humanitarian responsibility to act.
Perhaps the wealthy Arab nations do not anticipate ISIS’ forces spreading into their territories with the same force that they took Iraq with. If that is the case, than they are not completely wrong; Iraq became susceptible to the domination of Daesh because of the aftermath of the post 9/11 invasion and its issues with Iran, while the richer Arab nations suffered less turmoil and remained strong. Although Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have spoken with each other about their opposition to ISIS, they can do a lot more than they have so far. However, Egypt is an exception because it does have other impending crisis, and is actually in a different continent. The leaders of these nations understand that there are habitants in their countries who are connected to ISIS and similar groups, and that ISIS does pose a potential threat to them. Therefore, what they have done is speak to the U.S. about how they can help it fight ISIS. Why was it not the U.S. asking these nations how it can help them fight ISIS?
Though the rich oil nations are not densely populated, they recruit their armies from countries with large populations. For example, Kuwait’s army is comprised of Pakistani men. Has Kuwait sent any men forth against ISIS? Kuwait would not even be losing Kuwaiti fighters, it would be contributing foreign fighters, and with the amount of wealth this nation possesses, it can afford to recruit and supply more men.
The question being asked is that if there are a number of wealthy nations in the Middle East, then why is there still strife in nearby nations within the region? Indeed, other nations in the Middle East have tried to help with the ISIS issue, but they hold the potential to do a lot more. Most of the nations in the Middle East are united by their characteristic of being Arab, and the practice of the predominant religion, Islam. Even though ideological differences have set nations apart from each other, the existing religious and cultural similarities are not even enough to bring a strong Arab-nation coalition together to eliminate violent terrorism.
However, it is not the differences between the nations that keep them from helping each other well, it is the fact that these nations naturally want to deal with their own issues before helping others. There is nothing wrong with this. If rich Arab nations need to maintain the power of their reign and label anyone they want as “terrorists”, nobody can stop them. If they are too busy with economic negotiations to finance their gold Ferraris, and they cannot provide any more help to the urgent matters in Iraq and Syria, than that is their business.
Opinion By Tania Dawood
Newsweek: What Countries Are Fighting ISIS and Who Is Sitting on the Sidelines
Observer: Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt to Unify to Battle ISIS- Is Iran Next?
CNN: International coalition vows unity in fight against ISIS