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WHY AN ANTI-ISIS COALITION COULD BE A PROBLEM


One of the major challenges for western countries is how to stop ISIS without abetting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad(photo), whose forces have also been fighting ISIS.
Western governments believe Assad's anti-democratic policies are not only responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 people in the Syrian civil war but for giving rise to jihadist groups such as ISIS.
The involvement of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar in the anti-ISIS coalition is "a major departure from past policies," says Houchang Hassan-Yari, a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada.
He says these countries have had a dubious relationship with jihadi groups in the region. During the Syrian uprising, private citizens in these Sunni nations funnelled financial and military support to anti-Assad rebels, including ISIS.
But Hassan-Yari says the progress and rhetoric of ISIS has sent a signal to neighbouring countries that the group is not simply a local threat, but one that could imperil their own governments.
The problem is that a number of Iraq and Syria's other neighbours aren't nearly as motivated to step up the fight, says Wayne White, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
  • He says Turkey, as a NATO ally, "should be sending 75,000 troops to the [Turkey-Syrian] border to completely seal all of the border adjacent to ISIS, to cut the oil shipments, to cut the fighters going in. But we haven't even received that from the Turks."
  • Despite being "so critical" in this battle, Turkey is reticent of blowback from attacking ISIS directly or doing anything that would benefit Assad's regime, says White.
  • White says that while the kingdom of Jordan has a relatively small military, as a result of a long friendship with erstwhile Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the country still has deep ties with Iraq's former military officer corps, as well as various tribes, and could be key in gathering intelligence about ISIS's strategy.
  • "Jordan is an important actor, but it's also the most vulnerable," White says, citing the fact that Jordan now has camps of refugees from the Syrian war that rival the country's biggest cities in terms of population.
Brynen says that next to the U.S., the biggest player in this situation is Iran. The Shia-majority country has been a major backer of the Shia-led government in Iraq, and has been training and equipping Iraqi forces, as well reinforcing Shia militias throughout the country in an attempt to neutralize ISIS.
But there is significant controversy about Iran's involvement in a broader coalition.
Due to its long-standing feud with the U.S., Iran rebuffed an invitation to the Paris talks and ruled out any harmonized anti-ISIS military effort with the U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry countered by saying, "We are not co-ordinating with Iran. Period."

Source: CBC
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