The Probability Of Building An ISIS Coalition

By Sal Bommarito

In order to appreciate the complexity of the Middle East and the difficulty President Obama is going to have trying to form a coalition, one must understand the agendas of the players in this crisis.

Syria. President Bashar al-Assad controls this unitary state. He is despised by most of his neighbors because he ruthlessly foments unrest in the region by supporting terrorist groups.

Syria’s principal ally is Russia, which does significant business with the country. Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the U.S. have supplied weapons to the rebels fighting against Assad’s army.

The death total in Syria from civil war is over 160,000. Over the years, Assad has used chemical weapons to put down unrest in his country and is accused of horrendous humanitarian crimes.

The principal military groups in Syria include government forces, and ISIS and moderate rebel forces, which are fighting against Assad and each other. The U.S. is depending upon the moderate rebels to provide ground support of its airstrikes.

Syria is 87% Muslim. 74% are Sunni and 13% are Shia.

Iraq. Encouraged by the U.S., Iraq formed a new government. Although it is still dominated by Shiites, its new leaders have promised to be more inclusive towards the Sunnis in an effort to temper sectarian tension. Supported by Sunnis, Saddam Hussein oppressed Shiites for years. The Shiite majority assumed power after Saddam was defeated and immediately displaced all Sunni officials and began a campaign of terror against their former oppressors.

It is interesting to note that Iraq is depending upon Sunni support to fight against ISIS (which is Sunni dominated). The inclusiveness of the Shiite government will go a long way towards recruiting Sunnis. Kurds are also fighting against ISIS assuming that their influence and power will increase.

Government forces are purportedly well trained, but many soldiers deserted in the face of the ISIS threat. The U.S. is relying upon government forces, Sunni fighters and Kurds to provide necessary ground support, which may be wishful thinking.

Iraq is 99% Muslim, 60-65% Shia, 32-37% Sunni.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt are all supporting Iraq in spirit, but not yet with military aid.

The other principal players in the growing conflict are:

(Please note that any of the comments below can change on a moment’s notice depending upon rapidly changing political conditions.)

U.S.
– Against Assad
– Against ISIS
– Supportive of Syrian rebels
– Supportive of Iraq’s new government

Russia
– Supportive of Assad

Iran
– Supportive of Assad
– Against ISIS
– Supportive of moderate Syrian rebels because they are fighting against ISIS
– Supportive of Hamas
– Supportive of Muslim Brotherhood

Turkey
– Against Assad
– Against ISIS
– Supportive of Muslim Brotherhood

Saudi Arabia
– Against Assad
– Against ISIS
– Supportive of moderate Syrian rebels
– Against Hamas
– Against Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt
– Supportive of Muslim Brotherhood
– Against Hamas
– Against ISIS
– Against Assad
– Supportive of moderate Syrian rebels

The aforementioned chart foretells difficulty in negotiating a war against ISIS. To a great extent, the Middle East countries line up Shia vs. Sunni, but not always. For instance, a Sunni government dominates Syria, yet Saudi Arabia opposes Assad and ISIS (which is also Sunni). Iran, which is Shia, supports Assad, but is against ISIS.

ISIS is universally despised in the Middle East because it opposes most embedded regimes and is intent on killing as many Arabs as possible that are not Sunni. In particular, Saudi Arabia feels threatened by the group because it could inspire revolt within its borders.

The point to be made is that Arab countries are going to take pot shots at the U.S. no matter what strategy it ultimately employs. And when the U.S. begins to kill ISIS Arabs, the entire region is likely to object.

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