Arabs in the Middle East are facing an existential threat in the Islamic State. The terrorists have expanded into almost every Arab country, and have made clear their intention to absorb them all into their caliphate.
That’s why the Arabs will fight Islamic State to the last American.
After having entered the conflict in Syria last year in a coalition with the U.S. with much fanfare from the White House, the reality now is that the Arab air forces have disappeared from the battlefield, leaving the U.S. virtually alone.
As the United States prepares to intensify airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, the Arab allies who with great fanfare sent warplanes on the initial missions there a year ago have largely vanished from the campaign.
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The Obama administration heralded the Arab air forces flying side by side with American fighter jets in the campaign’s early days as an important show of solidarity against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or Daesh. Top commanders like Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, who oversees operations in Syria and Iraq, still laud the Arab countries’ contributions to the fight. But as the United States enters a critical phase of the war in Syria, ordering Special Operations troops to support rebel forces and sending two dozen attack planes to Turkey, the air campaign has evolved into a largely American effort.
Administration officials had sought to avoid the appearance of another American-dominated war, even as most leaders in the Persian Gulf seem more preoccupied with supporting rebels fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Now, some of those officials note with resignation, the Arab partners have quietly left the United States to run the bulk of the air war in Syria — not the first time Washington has found allies wanting.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have shifted most of their aircraft to their fight against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan, reacting to the grisly execution of one of its pilots by the Islamic State, and in a show of solidarity with the Saudis, has also diverted combat flights to Yemen. Jets from Bahrain last struck targets in Syria in February, coalition officials said. Qatar is flying patrols over Syria, but its role has been modest.
“They’ve all been busy doing other things, Yemen being the primary draw,” Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., who leads the air war from a $60 million command center at this sprawling base in Qatar, said of the Arab allies. He added that those allies still fly periodic missions in Syria and allow American jets to use their bases.
The United Arab Emirates last carried out strikes in Syria in March; Jordan in August; and Saudi Arabia in September, according to information provided by allied officials last week. But the Arab allies insist they are still playing an essential, if less active, military role in the war.
The world constantly complains about America “going it alone” in military actions, but realistically, who else is going to do it? There’s no will to fight in France. Under new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada is withdrawing its modest forces from the region. Great Britain — tired, timid, and lacking confidence — can’t decide whether to join the fight or not.
And the Arabs are perfectly willing to let the U.S. fight an enemy that has sworn to destroy the very governments who have quit in Syria.
The Houthi rebels do not threaten the Sunni Arab states in the Gulf. Defeating them will not deter Iran from their hegemonistic designs. But the Saudis and other Gulf states have chosen to concentrate their military power on the civil war in Yemen because they know the U.S. has their back in Syria and will do just about everything to prevent ISIS from achieving their goals.
Every tinpot dictator, strutting socialist, and authoritarian potentate from the Horn of Africa to the North Sea blames America for all the problems in the world. They blame America for their own corruption and incompetence. And when they’re not tearing us down, they’re begging us to save them from some threat or another.
The supreme irony of it all is that if America didn’t exist, the world would have to invent her.