Through their reactive kneejerk policies over the last few years, policies that conform both to their inherent nature and parochial interests, Russia, Iran, the Assad regime, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and all other Middle Eastern regimes managed to create a situation in Syria where the United States had no choice but to intervene to midwife a process that will eventually secure the interests of most of these regimes, most of which will survive the current mayhem with little or no change.
The Syrians, yes, even those who are now in danger of being harmed as a result of U.S. strikes, would have been much more forgiving, had the strikes come earlier and had Assad being in the visor as well, and not only ISIS and Al-Nusra. But seeing that the strikes came so late in the game and only in response to a potential threat to U.S. security, and that there do not seem to be any plans for targeting Assad and his loyalist militias as well, Syrians in target regions have little reason to be sympathetic to America’s plans. Even the Kurds, and after their initial euphoria, seem skeptical now, because ISIS’ positions around Kobani remain untouched, and its assault on the Kurdish town is still unfolding.
Ever since ISIS began making its presence felt on the Syrian scene, I predicted that eventually Obama will choose to intervene in Syria, but only to strike against ISIS. I warned that such a course will antagonize many Sunnis around the world, on account of Obama’s refusal to strike against the Assad regime which has committed much worse atrocities against the Syrian people, especially the Sunni majority. By enlisting the participation of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, UAE and even Qatar, Obama seems to think that he can avert giving such an impression. But he is wrong. Participation of the corrupt and authoritarian Sunni governments that have always had strong ties with the U.S. will not alleviate Sunni doubts and anger on the grassroots level, especially among the disaffected, and will probably further fuel it.
The current drive by the Obama administration to unite Sunni and Shia powers in the region against ISIS, the group that everyone supposedly hate in equal terms, will not succeed, because by ignoring the atrocities that Assad and Hezbollah have been perpetrating in Syria before ISIS showed up on the scene, and because both are pillars of the Shia axis in the region, the administration, with its suborn refusal to act against Assad coupled with its current single-minded focus on ISIS, will be perceived as supporting the Shia Axis. The ongoing negotiations with Iran and the reconciliatory tone that many administration officials have assumed in her regard will strengthen that impression.
Personally, I think that mass atrocities and beheadings is ISIS’ way of negotiating with the Americans over the issue of recognition of their de facto state. Because without recognition, even if unofficial, the state that ISIS is creating means little. With unofficial recognition, ISIS can make billions rather than millions of dollars from the sales of oil under their control, even if they have to sell it on the down-and-low. Recognition also allows ISIS the time it needs to consolidate its hold on the territories currently under its control, and to govern.