The leaders of thirty countries, including some Arab states, met in Paris to discuss how to implement global humanitarian, political and military measures that will halt the militant group of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (IS, former ISIS/ISIL). The Washington-led coalition aims to ‘downgrade and ultimately destroy’ the jihadists, to borrow Obama’s words.

The horrific, unspeakable murder of British and American citizens at the hands of ISIL marked a turning point in the fight to eradicate the terrorist threat posed by this radicalised organisation, a threat that, according to heads of states and by a public that is increasingly supportive of war, goes beyond borders and that must be tackled unanimously. Obama contends that the offensive against ISIL is not ‘America’s fight alone’, hence the West must join forces to make ISIL fall on its own sword. British Prime Minister David Cameron stated his determination to hunt down those Britons that are responsible for the brutal act of violence that killed their fellow countrymen and reiterated the UK’s role in arming and training Kurdish fighters and stressed his support for U.S. airstrikes in the region. In Europe, while Germany has reaffirmed that its role will be purely humanitarian, President Hollande launched airstrikes in Iraq, an operation that will continue ‘in the coming days’ and one that is ‘welcome[d]’ by U.S. President Barack Obama. Furthermore, Australia has committed to sending some six hundred men in an attempt to tackle ISIL militants.

As a result of the meeting in Paris, the Obama administration achieved the subscription of ten Arab countries to the anti-ISIL coalition. For geopolitical reasons the most important allies are Iraq, Syria, Turkey and the vital contribution of the Kurdish fighters. With regards to Iraq, the rapidity with which the new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has formed a new government, this is a striking sign of its commitment to defeat the common enemy. However, the new government and above all the army, still mirror those ethnic differences between Shiite and Sunnis that caused the growth of ISIL in the first place, therefore the problem of diverse nationalities must be addressed if Iraq is to play a major role in defeating the jihadi militants.  In Syria, the situation is more complicated not only because Ankara will not offer any military support to the U.S. efforts, but also because it remains unclear how the Syrian Army will be able to fight Assad’s regime on the one hand, and ISIL on the other.

The anti-ISIL coalition in the Arab region will also hinge on Saudi Arabia and on other Gulf monarchies, though their role remains ambiguous. Qatar hosts the U.S. military base of Al Udeid, which is of  great strategic importance but on the other hand there is clear evidence that it has supplied anti-aircraft missiles to the ISIL terrorist group. Less ambiguous is the commitment of Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan that have said to be ready to intervene in terms of military action by supporting the Iraqi troops, Sunni Iraqis and Syrians.

However, Iran was the big absentee at the Paris summit. The Secretary of Iran’s  National Supreme Security Council, Mr Shamkhani, declared that Washington’s effort to defeat Daesh (Islamic State) are ‘suspicious’ and ‘lack transparency’, thus Iran sees ‘no point in cooperating with a country whose hands are dirty and intentions are murky’. As a result of the above remarks, Tehran was not invited to the international conference that took place on September the 15th in Paris. According to US Secretary of State John Kerry, Iran’s presence would have been inappropriate due to the proximity of the regime in Tehran with the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Washington and its allies are aiming to undermine the ISIS control of oil fields and other key sources of revenues. Indeed a report by US officials has shown that the resources that ISIL collects through illegal oil, human trafficking and extortions, exceed by far those of any other terrorist organizations and reach $3 million per day. In order to reverse this trend, bombings of strategic targets are fully underway in Iraq, notably in the south-west of Baghdad and in Raqqa and in Syria.

There is great hope for the anti-ISIL coalition despite the differences between its members and their aims. There is no doubt that targeted air strikes are useful in disrupting and slowing down terrorist activities, but this is not enough by itself as it does not fully address the problem. In order to defeat the common enemy, the anti-ISIL coalition must work towards a broader aim that will empower moderate Sunnis in Iraq and in Syria. Equal empowerment of nationalities will not only ensure  the demise of the terrorist organisation, but will prevent its regrowth because the new power structure will be based on a government in Baghdad that is inclusive of all ethnic components of the region.

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