In Coalition-Building, US Excludes Some to Court Others

Active Anti-ISIS Groups Being Sidelined to Avoid Offending GCC, Turkey

The Obama Administration’s determination to build a huge coalition of “anti-ISIS” nations has centered on quantity as opposed to quality, with a focus on getting large numbers of nations that have no intention of doing anything to sign off on the plan.

It’s coming at the expense of would-be partners that are already fighting ISIS. The US spurned Iran’s coordination offer, only to later claim they were “open” to talks, leading Iran to insist they weren’t going to back the US operation, even though they’re already on the ground in Iraq, fighting ISIS.

The US was clear in not wanting Iran anywhere near this week’s Paris summit, despite Iraq wanting them there, and it was chiefly because the Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, would’ve likely pulled out rather than be seen as in league with Iran.

And as the US looks to find anti-ISIS factions inside Syria to arm, they’ve similarly spurned the Syrian military as too unfriendly to the Saudis, and are also excluding the Kurdish YPG and PKK factions, which are in direct conflict with ISIS, on the grounds that it would alienate Turkey.

The Saudis have suggested they might be involved in the air war against ISIS, though Iraq says they aren’t welcome. Turkey joined the coalition but has ruled out playing any role in military operations against ISIS at all.

Ultimately, the US seems resigned to fighting the war more or less by itself, and the large coalition is more an attempt to placate a war weary American public that the world is “united” on the conflict, even if that unity doesn’t add up to anything on the ground but another open-ended US war.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of