Respite from cold for Al-Assad

04 September 2014

The West might have to ask the Syrian leader for assistance in stamping out jihadist group Isis

The road to multilateral military action in Iraq is ever shortening following the beheading of a second American journalist by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis), announced by the jihadist group on 2 September.

Less than a week previously, US President Barack Obama had been widely criticised for admitting that Washington did not have a strategy to deal with the movement rampaging through Syria and Iraq.

However, the release of the video of the latest beheading and the continued slaughter of civilians in the northern Iraq has resulted in a new hardline rhetoric from the US leader as the latest Nato summit got under way in the UK on 4 September.

In a jointly-authored op-ed piece published on the eve of the conference, Obama and British prime minister David Cameron made it clear that tougher military action against Isis was moving ever closer, stating they will “not waver in our determination to confront [Isis].”

As the UK and US build up a prospective military coalition at the Nato summit, it will also require support from within the Middle East to achieve its goals of containing the threat of Isis. Whether that will include Damascus is still up for debate.

During the opening morning of the Nato conference, Cameron said the West would not require approval from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to launch strikes at Isis within Syrian territories, claiming that his government is illegal.

While Cameron and Obama have both publicly given short shrift to the suggestion that cooperation with Al-Assad is necessary, others argue that without coordination on some level with the Syrian leader, the roots of the problem will remain. 

The wish to keep Al-Assad out in the cold is understandable, and reviving communication with him would undoubtedly benefit his regime more than anyone else. The West, however, will have to take some major decisions in the coming weeks as to what its strategy will involve, and whom it will involve. While they are against seeking help from Damascus at this stage, they may be forced to make some compromises going forward.

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