The Saudis are putting on a full court messaging press and their agents are pushing their talking points into the media. The Saudis, who claim they don’t support ISIS (Yes, they do) are mixing together new and old talking points.
1. Bombing Al Qaeda in Iraq/ISIS would only increase its recruitment and popularity – This is an old Saudi/Gulfie talking point that has been around since 9/11. If you see it, you know the odds are good there’s a Saudi and his PR mercs at the start of it.
But for some reason, while bombing Al Qaeda in Iraq won’t work, bombing Shiite militias in Syria loyal to Assad will. Also bombing militias loyal to Gaddafi worked.
It’s a mystery wrapped in a giant bacon sandwich of hypocrisy.
2. ISIS is really part of a Sunni coalition and if we bomb it, we’ll alienate the Sunnis
The same argument played out in Syria against marginalizing the Al-Nusra Front, which was also Al Qaeda. ISIS is part of a coalition with the Baath Party and assorted militias. That doesn’t mean that ISIS won’t end up running things. So far the track record for Islamist coalitions ends with the Islamists running things.
Also “alienating” factions in the Middle East is a myth. Most Muslim factions hate us already. The ones that don’t are just more obsessed with hating someone else. They make alliances with their worst enemies and betray them just as quickly.
We can’t “alienate” them because they’re not enduringly loyal to anything outside their family and religion. All we can do is use them as temporary allies which is how the Sunni Awakening happened. But it’s a longtime error of Western Middle East policy to assume that these are enduring relationships.
3. The only solution is a more inclusive Iraqi government
We can’t control Iraq’s government and Al Qaeda is not going to vanish tomorrow if there are more Sunnis in the government. We’ve tried stabilizing Iraq, but we’re in no real position to do it now. Our interest is not in negotiating between Sunnis and Shiites, but in preventing Al Qaeda from becoming a threat.
4. We need to arm the moderate Sunni opposition in Syria to weaken Al Qaeda.
There is no moderate Sunni opposition.