MSNBC's Joe Scarborough said Thursday on his show Morning Joe that America's allies in the Arab world, especially Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, are "reluctant" to more directly fight Islamic State because they do not have faith in President Obama's commitment to defeating the jihadist group and leading in the Middle East.
While asking David Ignatius of the Washington Post about what America should do to address Russia's military intervention in Syria, Scarborough brought up the issue of how to strengthen the U.S.-led coalition when friendly countries may see Washington as an unreliable partner on the ground.
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"We were talking earlier about how many of our Arab allies are reluctant to get involved [in countering the Islamic State]…because they fear that this president will leave them hanging out there; that they'll get involved, and then he'll retreat and they'll be stuck there fighting their neighbors."
He went so far as to describe how "we've all heard that off the air from diplomats and leaders from the Middle East, and especially the Gulf region."
Scarborough then went beyond the Arab world and brought up a lack of leadership in the NATO alliance after the Paris terrorist attacks, asking, "What sort of signal does it send that France is bombed; NATO can't unite to help them; Putin is saying we can help you, and Barack Obama says we may help, but there will be conditions?"
Since IS launched deadly terrorist attacks in Paris last week, there has been renewed vigor in discussions regarding the Obama administration's strategy to defeat the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria.
Many lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, have called for greater U.S. involvement in the conflict and a more concerted effort at forming a ground force to go in and take territory that is controlled by IS. Some members of Congress, such as John McCain, are arguing for about 10,000 American troops to be deployed to fight IS.
President Obama, on the other hand, is defending his policies, saying the strategy is working but will take time.
Many analysts believe a Sunni Arab ground force is the only way to effectively occupy and hold territory that IS now controls, in large part because many think that is the best way to win over local Sunni tribes to fight the jihadist group. While some Arab countries have been supporting Syrian rebels for months or years, they have been unwilling to send their own ground troops, which is the issue Scarborough was addressing with his comments.
One major issue for Washington is Russia's recent military intervention in Syria to support the regime of embattled President Bashar al-Assad. David Ignatius pointed out in response to Scarborough's question that the Russians must understand that "Assad is a magnet for these jihadists."
"Until the Russians, until they understand that, it's a no-win proposition [to work with Moscow in fighting Islamic State]."