Everyone agrees with fighting ISIS, but then what?

Mashari Althaydi

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Battles suddenly erupted and military alliances were established to fight ISIS and annihilate its caliphate in the Iraqi city of Mosul and recently in Syria’s Raqqah.

That’s good but it’s difficult to rule out the electoral propaganda aims of the Obama administration as it wants to achieve a “quick” and “symbolic” victory to imply to American voters that it brought them ISIS caliph Baghdadi’s head, like it did in that cinematic scene when it killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al-Qaeda.

The American administration is proceeding at a faster pace during the last phase of Obama’s term in order to make quick political and military gains. Part of speeding up UN pressure in Yemen to make the different parties accept Ismail Ould Cheikh’s plan comes within this context.

However what’s more important than these concerns is that there is a “serious” military battle being fought against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for the first time with American support and via air force support, planning, recruiting and intelligence information. Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces are efficiently participating in this battle on ground but their participation has been “contaminated” by the terrorist Popular Mobilization forces’ participation which is happening amid American carelessness and Iraqi governmental cover.

Turkey out, Iran in

Turkey has been kept out of Mosul’s battle, leaving the situation to Iran. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi warned the Turkish army of intervening but said Iranian intervention was “halal” (permitted) because it’s carried out following the request of the “independent” government in Baghdad.

Perhaps, the Turks will pay the price for their delay to take to the Syrian field, either against ISIS or others

Mshari Al Thaydi

The scenario is now repeating in Syria’s Raqqah. This can be seen through US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s statement that the battle there is near. Meanwhile the People’s Protection Units, which is made up of Kurdish militias and some Arabs, announced that they’ve begun the battle. According to the militias’ spokesperson Talal Selo, participating in this battle is “exclusive” to the People’s Protection Units. He frankly stated that Turkey has been excluded from participating, adding that the US agreed to that. However, Carter said in a strange statement: “We will consult with the Turks later”.

Raqqah’s operation has been named Wrath of the Euphrates, which is perhaps in response to the name Operation Euphrates Shield which the Turks gave to their operations in north of Syria and west of the Euphrates. In addition to fighting ISIS, Turkey’s aim was to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish entity led by Salih Muslim’s militias which Turkey only sees as a Syrian version of the Kurdistan workers’ party.

Excited about fighting ISIS

It’s not only the US which is excited about the Raqqah battle. France, Britain, and of course Turkey are also enthusiastic about it, as everyone agrees with fighting ISIS and defeating it. However the dispute is over who manages the battles and who manages the situation after the battle’s end.

In other words, the war against ISIS, which is a necessary and legitimate war that everyone agrees on, has become an excuse for some parties, either on the sectarian or nationalistic level, to achieve political and field gains.

These gains, whether achieved by the Popular Mobilization forces in Iraq or by the militias of People’s Protection Units, are made at Turkey’s expense, and this is clear.

Perhaps, the Turks will pay the price for their delay to take to the Syrian field, either against ISIS or others. It’s difficult for he who arrives late to the party to find a chair to sit.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Nov. 07, 2016.
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.

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