Despite how the Islamic State continues to seek to extend its territory and commit atrocities, the three main regional powers still can’t seem to keep their eyes on the ball. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel continue to prioritize other perceived threats instead. At the Atlantic, in a satirical article titled Defeating ISIS: The Board Game, Karl Sharro writes:
Saudi Arabia … believes ISIS cannot be defeated unless Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is removed from power. Turkey has just convinced NATO nations that the war against ISIS can only be won if Turkey’s traditional Kurdish opponents are neutralized first. Israel sees only one way to defeat ISIS: destroy Iran’s nuclear program and clip its wings regionally.
“What,” Sharro asks, “explains these apparently contradictory aims?”
The cynical view would be that all these parties are less interested in defeating ISIS than in achieving their own regional goals, and that they’re only pretending to be concerned about wiping out the group.
But he writes (in all facetiousness obviously) “there is no place for cynicism in Middle Eastern politics. Everyone involved in the region is known to be sincere, albeit in radically different ways.” Thus, writes Sharro, the only possible explanation is that Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Syria “are secretly playing some sort of game.”
It appears that all the players confronting ISIS are competing to see who can devise the largest number of steps, and most convoluted strategy, to overcome the Islamic State.
The scenario for Saudi Arabia might look like something like this:
Saudi Arabia proposes first dislodging President Assad in Syria, one of ISIS’s principal enemies, which will in turn strengthen the Islamic State. That may seem like a step backward, but fear not: There’s more. The Saudis will then attack Yemen to defeat the Houthis, who are allied with Iran. This will distract Iran in its fight against ISIS. The Kingdom will also draw other Arab countries away from U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq so that these states can participate in Saudi-led strikes in Yemen. Where, you ask, does defeating ISIS fit into all this? You may have missed it: Please return to the start of this paragraph.
Where indeed. For Turkey and Israel’s scenarios read Sharro’s article. Saudi Arabia has already suffered significant attacks by the Islamic State. If it, Turkey, and Israel don’t stop trying to turn the situation to their advantage, they might find an Islamic State that they have allowed to strengthen making inroads into their own states.