For all the ridicule heaped upon George W. Bush’s so-called “Coalition of the Willing” by President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry, among others, the US-led 2003 operation to liberate Iraq and overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein was assisted by 49 nations that provided material military support including troops, intelligence cooperation, material, logistics, ground facilities, and financial assistance.
In alphabetical order, those nations were as follows:
Afghanistan Albania Angola Australia Azerbaijan
Bulgaria Colombia Costa Rica Czech Republic Denmark
Dominican Rep El Salvador Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia
Georgia Honduras Hungary Iceland Italy
Japan Kuwait Latvia Lithuania Macedonia
Marshall Islands Micronesia Mongolia Netherlands Nicaragua
Palau Panama Philippines Poland Portugal
Romania Rwanda Singapore Slovakia Solomon Islands
South Korea Spain Tonga Turkey Uganda
Ukraine United Kingdom United States Uzbekistan
Only nine nations are part of what President Obama grandiosely titles his “broad coalition” to assist the US effort to “degrade” and “eventually destroy” the Sunni terrorist ISIS army in what is now officially being called “a very significant counter terrorist operation.” What actual support those states have in fact offered remains unclear.
Normally, international military coalitions are forged prior to their being formally announced. In the case of the anti-ISIS coalition, President Obama proclaimed the establishment of a US-led “broad coalition” of nations committed to the military defeat of the terrorist ISIS army before any specific agreements were reached with any partners. More significant perhaps than the list of states that have signed on is the list of those who have not. The most important and reliable US allied nations have almost all begged off; as have critical regional allies.
A scathing front page analysis of President Obama’s non-existent coalition in Friday’s New York Times contends that President Obama’s call to arms to fight ISIS is “getting less than an enthusiastic welcome with leading allies like Egypt, Turkey, all finding ways to avoid specific commitments.”
US Secretary of State Kerry also found it difficult to rally allies to partner in a war that the American administration refuses to call a war. Of course, according to US constitutional law, no President can unilaterally declare war. Only the Congress has the power to do that. But many others suspect the reasons the administration is avoiding the “war” word is far more political than it is constitutional. After all, President Obama regularly, and some would say recklessly, disregards or ignores US constitutional provisions that he feels prevent him from achieving his policy goals. The President’s left-wing anti-war base is getting restless. Perhaps the White House thinks that banning use of the word “war” will prevent its key constituent supporters from breaking out into outright opposition.
Whatever the reason, all Kerry could manage to win as a result of the emergency meeting he called for Thursday in the Saudi capital was a non-committal, non-specific “communique of support” from 10 Arab states that offered to assist “in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign” but with many added qualifiers. Those states are Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States and Qatar. But the three largest and most important of those signatories have publicly announced their support is strictly verbal at this stage.
Several dozen NATO countries signed a similar non-binding resolution of support for those working to combat the ISIS threat during last week’s biennial summit in Newport, Wales.
Saudi Arabia: “There is a limit to what the kingdom can provide” said Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal following his meeting Thursday with Secretary Kerry in Jeddah. The Saudis did indicate they would host a training facility for Syrian rebels. The White House claimed Thursday a deal had been reached with the Saudi government, which the Saudi’s quickly denied.
Britain: Before being over-ruled by Prime Minister David Cameron, British Defense Minister Phillip Hammond categorically rejected the possibility of British forces being used in any offensive operations against Syrian based targets. The UK has been the lynchpin of every major US lead military effort since World War I.
Germany: German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeyer told the German Bundestag on Thursday that his country would not be participating in any offensive military operations against ISIS in Syria. “To be quite clear,” he told fellow parliamentarians, “we have not been asked to do so, neither will we.”
Steinmeyer went still further when he appeared to criticize President Obama directly for not presenting a convincing enough strategic war plan. “We need to be honest with ourselves in the current situation, we still don’t have a final blanket strategy which promises success against ISIS.”
Turkey: Arguably the most important single country in President Barack Obama’s hope for coalition against the ISIS. It also seems to be the least enthusiastic. Turkey is the most powerful country in the region. It is a founding member of NATO; it fields a stranding army of nearly one million men and is the key entry point for foreign fighters traveling to and from Syria. There is no other country that wields more power when it comes to fighting ISIS. For a host of reasons, including Turkey’s own vulnerable political situation, few believe Turkey will provide anything more than lip service. Formally joining the fight against ISIS would mean overturning Turkey’s current foreign policy, risking the lives of Turkish nationals now being held as hostage by ISIS, and most importantly, helping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who Turkey is publicly committing to ousting from power. Not only did Turkey decline to offer specific support, it refused even to sign the non-binding communique of support.
Jordan: The Hashemite Kingdom–already overwhelmed by more than one million Syrian refugees–claimed that its political pre-occupation remained “the Palestinian cause.” Thus, Jordan could not possibly commit to provide any military support to the Obama “coalition”. “Having boots on the ground is a red flag for many countries,” said Jordanian Foreign Minister Alaa Batayneh, “and Jordan is one of them.”
Egypt: In addition to being a linchpin US ally, its recent troubles notwithstanding, Egypt remains the Arab world’s largest and most influential nation. Its Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, made sure to steer clear of making any commitments on his country’s behalf at the Saudi summit, claiming his country’s hands were already full fighting the domestic terrorist remnants of the Muslim Brotherhood government that was until very recently strongly supported by the Obama Administration. “There is a common endangering our people,” but Egypt, he said in Jeddah, “must fight its own battle against our common enemy.”
Meanwhile, Russia announced it not only opposed US efforts to build a coalition, but that it would actively work to defend the embattled Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in international forums and with help on the battlefield. Russia demanded that the Obama Administration be forced to secure a UN Security Council resolution to launch any military strikes inside Syria without the cooperation and approval of the Syrian regime. Kerry expressed shock that the Russians would suddenly start demanding adherence to international law following their invasion and annexation of Crimea last March and its ongoing invasion and occupation of parts of Eastern Ukraine in recent weeks.
“I’m really rather surprised that Russia would dare assert any notion of international law after what has happened.”
As Obama’s options to assemble a true “broad based” coalition appeared to shrink, his problems seemed to multiply. New intelligence reports released by the US government dramatically increased the projected number and firepower of ISIS forces. The CIA said Thursday it was now forced to revise its earlier projections of ISIS forces because they had underestimated their numbers by as much as half. As ISIS’ lightning advance raced through Syria and into Iraq, the CIA claimed that the Sunni terror army consisted of no more than between 7500 and 12,000 men. Now, says CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz, ISIS “can muster” between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters.