The Middle East has developed more hot spots than asphalt on a scorching summer day and I continue to sort through articles in search of an understanding of the underlying dynamics at work. The most illuminating short piece I have found is by Adam Taylor in the Washington Post from August 22. There he nicely summarizes what seems an almost surreal situation in which former enemies seem close to becoming strange bed fellows out of the common desire to crush ISIS.
It reminds me of the ancient proverb about friendly enemies quoted in the title of this post. Or as Taylor describes the current situation: “One remarkable result of the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq has been how it seems to be shifting broader conceptions in the Middle East. It sometimes looks like enemies are becoming potential allies – and even old friends are starting to look a little suspicious.”
While I suggest you read the article, here is a thumbnail sketch of its content along with a bit of me inserted here and there.
In order to stop ISIS it seems necessary to root them out of Syria as well as Iraq and that means some sort of working relationship with the Assad government, that same government President Obama has railed against for many months now. Awkward.
On the other hand, recall that the U. S. did cooperate with Syria and Russia in the removal of chemical weapons there which meant the U. S. was actually shoring up the regime in a defacto way at least for the months it took to complete that deal. This at the expense of the Free Syrian Army and other so-called moderate anti-government forces. How is this so different than that?
Cooperation with Iran seems likely, too. Maybe more likely. I know, also awkward, but Iran is the major supporter of the Iraqi Shia who must be counted on to fight ISIS, since we don’t want to put our own boots on the ground (well, not more than a thousand or…?). Prime Minister David Cameron, for one, has suggested talks with Iran and other Mid-East nations to develop cooperation to fight ISIS.
While at least some cooperation with the likes of Assad’s government and Iran seems in the cards, there is also reassessments being made of our allies-for-the-most-part like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. These countries (or at least wealthy citizens in them) have been the chief donors to ISIS in its battle vs. Assad. Now that ISIS has spread like a wildfire, these donors may have had a change of heart, though I can’t gauge that and Taylor doesn’t try.
However, he does give a good example of how the success of ISIS has made some former backers cringe. Turkey is an enemy of the Assad regime and “had shown a remarkable tolerance for Islamic State fighters until very recently, allowing fighters to use Turkish towns as way stations for arms and supplies. Turkey is now working with the United States and European governments to crack down on Islamist fighters.”
Clear as mud? Well, read the Taylor article and I think it will be a bit clearer.