Last week, President Barack Obama finally announced the strategy to “degrade and destroy” the Sunni jihadis of the Islamic State, which has become the new threat in the Middle East.
The grim part of the story is that it is not the first time, nor does it appear to be the last, in which the United States will engage in military action there. During the last two decades alone, from both father and son Bush to Clinton and Obama, the United States has been involved in Iraq. In fact, this last time, trying to “undo the mess” created by his predecessor George W., Obama removed all troops that had stayed after the invasion at the beginning of the century. Now, he has to quickly improvise a way to face a new enemy gaining strength among the Sunnis of Saddam Hussein. Today, trained in the fight against the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s jihadis are a threat to Iraq as a state, and have conducted attacks in Libya to expand their influence.
Myopia, lack of political calculations, or misperception? All of this ends up being the same. It is certain that both governments of the area, which will make up part of the coalition that Washington is forming, as well as the government of the United States and the European countries involved, have failed. Of course, as they say, it is easy to a prophet of the past to critique the decisions made in the moment. And the moment, a year ago, was not easy to assess. The option to offer military support to Syrian rebels, with bombings and weapons, to overthrow Assad, was about to become reality. However, at the last moment, Obama stopped himself from playing the game of the fundamentalists. The parody is that now, those same jihadis are those who threaten the region with their repeated acts of brutality. Enough said.
As of now, there is a coalition of countries that are part of NATO which will act with the United States in order to continue the bombings in Iraqi territories. This is part of the strategy announced to “degrade” the Islamic State’s armed militants, who have become stronger in some important areas, including Mosul. As is known, the other paradox is to count on Iraq as a circumstantial ally of Washington, its former archenemy that is joining the cause against its nemesis, the Sunni jihadis. At the same time, another coalition is reluctantly forming, consisting of countries in the area that intend to take action in Syria, where American drones fly over the lands conquered by the Islamic State to quickly identify bombing sites.
According to the latest intelligence estimates, there are up to 35,000 armed fundamentalist militants, including a large number of foreign volunteers, the majority of whom come from neighboring countries. However, about 2,000 may have come from the United States, Great Britain and various European nations.
The explanation for why Barack Obama decided to return to a region from which he pledged to retreat a few years ago has some important variables, according to analysts. The first is the strategic importance of oil. On the other hand, there are various countries close to the United States, like Egypt, Israel, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, that are not ready to allow the precarious equilibrium there to be disrupted, despite current problems, with the meddling of a new actor that has become a large threat for all of them.
The cards are dealt. One will have to wait to see the results of a new war in the gunpowder that sometimes turns into the Middle East. The sentence compares the Middle East to gunpowder: that the territory that makes the Middle East is gunpowder that has a tendency to become a group of nations.