Ganging up on the Islamic State

The emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (now called the Islamic State, or IS) has clearly posed a threat to the West and the equilibrium it created in the Middle East. Unlike al-Qaeda, the Islamic State is not only a loose network of jihadist groups. IS has proclaimed itself a state and has the power to spread all over the Middle East. For Western countries this is particularly worrisome because of the weakness of Iraq and Afghanistan, two states where the United States-led policy of nation-building has failed.
In this light, to directly confront IS it would be necessary to remove the threat to the stability of the region and also to grant security to citizens of other religions. In the past weeks the US has taken many steps to build up consensus for a new military intervention in the Middle East, but problems have emerged. The role of regional actors is a key issue to be effective in the fight against IS.
The four most important actors in the region (Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran) have different postures and some of them, like Egypt and Turkey, remain ambivalent and skeptical about the creation of a new coalition. On the other side, Saudi Arabia is strongly pushing to create an international force and Iran affirms the need to have an effective strategy to defeat IS. For Iran, in particular, things seem difficult – especially because a new coalition would include all the old enemies of the Islamic Republic. The point is: will these actors be able to overcome their mutual distrust? It does not seem likely. But the common interest in removing a terrible threat to their security could bring them together.