America is back, late and pompous as ever

Could ISIS have changed an entire global policy and reshuffled friends and foes in such a short period of time?

Octavia Nasr
Octavia Nasr
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There is always a good time for a U.S. intervention (diplomatic in particular, military if necessary) in the Middle East. There is also a better time, just as there is a worse time. History teaches us, the U.S. always misses the former two and goes for the latter with usually terrible consequences.

The rhetoric does not match the deeds in most cases and that is one of the worst qualities of U.S. foreign policy. The rhetoric is usually made up of diplomatic jargon, words carefully picked to sound good to a mainly American audience. Clarity is usually missing; even the famous “Make no mistake” is usually followed by even more confusion among Middle East audiences. By the same token, threats and warnings are usually empty, premature or incredibly too late to be effective.

Could ISIS have changed an entire global policy and reshuffled friends and foes in such a short period of time?

Octavia Nasr

In this atmosphere, how can one read President Obama’s latest assault on ISIS? Some countries vocalized approval while others expressed reservation. But it is unclear how both positions translate effectively on the ground? With credible reports pointing to U.S. military aid to the Assad regime – a regime the U.S. deemed dictatorial for the past three years – to fight the claimed “Islamic State.” Only a year ago, Obama had called on Assad to stop killing his own people and threatened to spare no effort to stop him and his massacres.

Could ISIS have changed an entire global policy and reshuffled friends and foes in such a short period of time?

On the Iranian front

On the Iranian front and Hezbollah by osmosis, there are reports of a secret deal securing the two “rogue” entities support the U.S.-led fight against ISIS.

Israel is also concerned about ISIS, especially that it claims some of its Arab citizens could have joined the terror group. But Israel’s ISIS woes pale in comparison to the unlikely alliances the region is witnessing without reasonable assessment of the situation or a concrete plan of action.

Not committing ground troops in a fight against ISIS and their likes is a “feel good” measure that destroys, kills, maims and displaces but does not do the job it is intended to do, namely eradicating terrorism.

This latest offensive - albeit late, weak and badly planned - remains better than nothing. It’s a “gamble” as Obama put it, a risk worth taking since the alternative is worse. It does not, however, address other serious problems in the region and it fragments society further as it leaves Arab nationalists and Iran agenda-drivers scratching their heads. Unsure whether to follow in their heroes’ footsteps to combat terrorism alongside the U.S. or find themselves new heroes altogether.

Good luck to all either way. Luck is what this quagmire needs!

This article was first published in al-Nahar on September 15, 2014.


Multi-award-winning journalist Octavia Nasr served as CNN’s senior editor of Middle Eastern affairs, and is regarded as one of the pioneers of the use of social media in traditional media. She moved to CNN in 1990, but was dismissed in 2010 after tweeting her sorrow at the death of Hezbollah’s Mohammed Fadlallah. Nasr now runs her own firm, Bridges Media Consulting, whose main aim is to help companies better leverage the use of social networks.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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