According to US plans, the international coalition against the Islamic State was supposed to comprise 40 countries of the most powerful states and organisations in the world including the United States, the European Union, the Arab League and 26 other countries.
Moreover, the US strategy aimed at arming moderate Syrian opposition groups. In the two conferences that were held in Saudi Arabia and France, leaders of these countries seemed to agree with going ahead with such an impossible mission. However, here in Egypt we were concerned with being involved in a war in Iraq while also being completely engrossed in an international war on our territories against extremism. Anyway, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry made it clear that it would not join the US project. But it seems that Egypt’s rejection was embarrassing for the US administration, so Barack Obama made a reply, without clarifications, that the US is not committed to defending certain countries in the region.
In any case, the coalition seems to be breaking up now, and it is not clear who will join the western countries in their war on the Islamic State and in what way they should participate. For example, the answer to whether this participation comes in the form of sending ground troops, aerial strikes or through logistic aid such as the case of Turkey remains unknown.
The Islamic State is an offshoot of Al-Qaeda which the United States fought fiercely for 13 years. If not for the footage of the beheading of western citizens, Obama would not try to form a 40-state coalition to fight them. He did not lift a finger when those militants seized Iraqi military weapons. In addition, the US administration did not react when those terrorists took advantage of the security flaws and empty areas in Iraq and Syria, and when they controlled swathes of lands without much resistance, or maybe with the help of some residents there. No one tried to understand who was funding those militants, which as US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel once said, had unlimited funding. Yet, Washington could have stopped this funding if it really wanted to.
It is true that terrorism, in all its forms, is horrifying, but the power of the Islamic State was overstated. The reason for this was to make the war against it look big, while the undeclared reason was to strike Syria. We should bear in mind that the Islamic State has no fighting capabilities and cannot face any organised military force. They simply made all this progress in Iraq and Syria because they found large areas void of any military power.
If the new coalition aims at fighting terrorism in Iraq and Syria, our aim remains to fight terrorism in Egypt on our own.
Salwa Habib is a senior columnist and an expert on Egyptian-American relations.