It is curious that last Wednesday's news that President Obama would hunt down the Islamic State group "wherever they are," including Syria, was made on the eve of the 13th anniversary of 9/11, the date that New York and Washington went down in U.S. history and the weaknesses of the world power, and any democracy for that matter, were exposed by terrorism.
Now Obama is once again urging the world to fight against a threat he considers global and that has shown its brutality not only in Syria and Iraq but also on social media. The brutality of the Islamic State has resulted in mass executions of unarmed men, minorities murdered for supposed heresy, thousands displaced and a terrorist regime who has become known for the images—which may have been what left Obama no alternative to intervention—of the beheading of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, broadcast on the internet.
The White House is consequently implementing a four-fold strategy: air strikes, no intervention of troops on the ground, the formation of an international coalition and moderated support from the Syrian military. There is no set timeline so as to keep it from evoking the bitter memory of previous interventions in Iraq.
That's why this isn't an easy decision for Obama. It could be said he made it unwillingly, forced by circumstances and pressure from public opinion. At the beginning of his first term, he promised to withdraw troops from the conflicts that plagued Afghanistan and Iraq in order to concentrate on complex, pressing problems at home, like immigration and healthcare reform. Now, however, his government has taken on the offensive against Islamic State, which, depending on the results, could have a decisive impact on the political playing field, particularly on the 2016 presidential election, in which the Democratic Party hopes to win again, possibly with ex-first lady Hillary Clinton.
While this does seem like a "just war," given the atrocities committed by Islamic State, and its ideology that challenges humanity, life, freedom of religion and other universal principles in modern society, it could still turn into a trap, considering the complexity of the region the U.S. intends on intervening in. How can you guarantee that the Syrians they plan on helping won't turn out to be another enemy, like al-Qaida? How do you debilitate Islamic State in Syria without strengthening Bashar Assad's already bloodthirsty regime? And even more so, how do you keep the offensive from degenerating into a sectarian conflict that involves the whole region?
For now, Washington has made an important advance in gaining the support of the Arab countries, particularly the Gulf countries, who have promised to put an end to the flow of funds and combatants to Islamic State.
In the ever-changing colors of the jihadi movement, there are many suspicions that Islamic State is financed by oil monarchies in their fight against Shiism, a battle that, not for nothing, is currently secondary to the emergency of Islamic State and no longer underlies the multiple disputes in the Middle East.