The past few weeks have brought some significant developments in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (abbreviated ISIS) as many countries in the Middle East resume the offensive against ISIS. The renewed assaults came after ISIS released a video of the violent immolation of a Jordanian pilot captured in December of last year. This kind of execution is just one of many in a line of beheadings, stonings, and even crucifixions that ISIS has been performing as they acquire more territory in northern Iraq and Syria. In response to the video, King Abdullah of Jordan appeared publicly to offer his condolences to the family of the pilot as well as to declare further and more powerful airstrikes against ISIS in order to “punish those who did this heinous act.”
Jordan is backed by the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, which is also resuming air attacks. The U.A.E. temporarily pulled their support due to concerns for the safety of their pilots after the Jordanian pilot was captured in December of last year. However, their concerns have now been addressed as a more speedy and effective search and rescue procedure has been established. According to Jordan’s palace, Bahrain has also pledged military support to the new campaign.
Despite resounding support in the fight against ISIS, noticeably absent is the government of Syria, even though ISIS controls a large portion of the northern half of the country and has their headquarters located within its borders. Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad has refused to join a US coalition because, in his words Syria “can not be an alliance of a country who support the terrorism.” This accusation comes from the US-provided non-military support of the so called “moderate” rebels in Syria, which Assad has labeled as a terrorist organization.
Instead of taking action, the Assad regime seems content to sit back and allow foreign powers to intervene while every day Syrian civilians are suffering as ISIS expands their control over the region. It’s crucial that all of the countries in the Middle East coordinate together and fight back against this major threat to the safety and stability in the region. Countries like Jordan, which shares a border with Syria and therefore is in the most immediate danger if ISIS keeps expanding their control in the region, have already taken the initiative to try to stop this threat before they can augment their influence even further.
Though Israel also shares a border with Syria, they have not joined the anti-ISIS coalition led by the US. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu used this opportunity to offer condolences to King Abdullah and strengthen ties between their two nations, but seems reluctant to formally work with the other countries of the Middle East. ISIS poses an even more significant threat to the Israeli people because we have increasingly seen the extremists practicing violent ethnic and religious cleansing in the regions they control and using these radical ideals to justify their savage actions. One might think that in these times of crucial danger, countries could set aside their differences and work together to defeat the threat, but this lack of cooperation demonstrates just how complex the relationships between Middle Eastern countries are.
Where does the United States fit into all this (if at all)? Though the US isn’t immediately in danger of ISIS in the same way that Jordan is, instability and extremism in the Middle East pose a threat to the entire world through terrorist attacks, as seen most recently in the Charlie Hebdo shooting. However, there is much debate as to whether this warrants US intervention and, if so, how much intervention is necessary. After all, just last year we finally finished a decade long war in Afghanistan and many citizens of the United States are not eager to get involved in turmoil in the Middle East again. Despite this reluctance, the atrocities being committed by ISIS have led to US military action over the past six months.
According to NPR, the White House has just this week requested that Congress declare war. For many, this seems long overdue since we have already had a strong presence in the fight for the last few months. If Congress does formally declare war, it is vital that some very important restrictions are put into place. One of these restrictions will most likely be “no ground troops for enduring offensive combat” according to Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia, who worked on a proposal last year. Provisions like these are important to make sure that the United States can help out without getting too involved in an open-ended conflict like the one that we just got out of. Ultimately, it will take full participation by most countries in the Middle East with the support of foreign powers like the US to finally defeat ISIS. Fortunately, the events of the last week look promising as these various forces come together to fight this common enemy.