A rare point of agreement between the critics and advocates of a deal with Iran starkly captures the nature of my own disaffection with it and with the current state of affairs in our world. The point simply put is this: the deal is being inked with Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni blood.
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.
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.
The chorus for re-legitimating Assad continues to grow bigger and louder, with two more experts joining the fray through an op-ed in the New York Times that appeared today. The two experts, Julien Barnes-Dacey, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Daniel Levy, the director of the council’s Middle East program, argue that: