During the long arc of the Syrian civil war, Obama has worked desperately to avoid committing U.S. forces to another open-ended conflict in the Middle East. Now, he finds himself confronted with the kind of messy, unpredictable war that he has predicated his presidency on avoiding. Signing up allies to share the load of fighting in Iraq and potentially Syria would soften the political blow of returning to war, even though U.S. military planners are focused on an expanding air campaign and have no plans to send combat troops into either country. To help assemble the coalition, Obama has recruited retired Gen. John Allen, a highly-regarded officer who commanded all U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2013 and was the president’s initial pick to be the top military commander of NATO.
Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Saudi Arabia Thursday for a summit meeting in Jeddah, where he secured support from a group of key Arab countries for a communique that declared a “shared commitment to stand united against the threat posed by all terrorism, including the so-called Islamic state in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to the region and the world.” ISIL is another name for the Islamic State.
That communique was signed by representatives of the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council — which includes Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates — Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United States. Turkey, which possess one of the strongest militaries in the region, notably did not sign the document. Israel was not invited.