What does Jordan’s anger mean for fight against Islamic State?

Read the Full Transcript


    We return now to the coalition fight against the Islamic State group.

    To help us take stock of that effort's strengths and weaknesses, we are joined once again by retired Colonel Derek Harvey. He's a former special adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and now he's director for the Global Initiative on Civil Society and Conflict at the University of South Florida. And Janine Davidson, she's a former Air Force pilot and deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans during the first term of the Obama administration. She's now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

    And we welcome both of you back to the program.

    Janine Davidson, up until now, how effective has this coalition been against the Islamic State?

    JANINE DAVIDSON, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, I think it depends how you define being effective and it depends — depends on how you define progress in this entire thing.

    I think there's no doubt that this is an unprecedented coalition, to be able to pull together the types of countries across this region to focus — I mean, on the very first night of airstrikes to have that many countries participating, I think that that's kind of amazing. That's on a military perspective.

    But, at the end of the day, this isn't going to be a fully military solution. That said, I think there is no doubt that we have sort of pushed back the advance of ISIS. You don't see them with the lightning speed they were taking over territory last year. They have stopped.

    And I think what they have done is, they have taken control of places like Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, and that's the greater military challenge.


    Colonel Harvey, how do you size up the progress or not that this coalition has made so far?

    COL. DEREK HARVEY (RET.), Former Army Intelligence Officer: I think we have made limited and halting progress.

    Most of the progress has been by the Shia militias supported by the Iranian Quds Force and the Kurdish Peshmerga. They have halted the progress of ISIS and pushed them back in some other areas, but ISIS still has the initiative in quite a number of areas in Iraq.

    And, most importantly, they have had significant gains in Syria over the last four months. Politically, things aren't going well for the Sunni Arab community in Iraq, despite the new prime minister, Abadi. There's been very little support for Sunni Arab awakening movements there.

    So it's really questionable at this point in time as to making a judgment about real progress. I think we have stabilized, and that's about it.


    So, given all that, Janine Davidson, how much difference do you think the death and the way this — the death of this Jordanian pilot was carried out will make?


    Well, I think it's an absolutely horrific turn of events.

    I think it has, if anything, become sort of a wakeup call to people across the region. I mean, there are plenty of people who are sort of on the fence, maybe sympathetic to ISIS kind of being bold against the West. But now, you know, they have done this completely horrific, unacceptable thing to a Muslim pilot from Jordan.

    And I think, you know, for countries or leaders in the region that were having, you know, trouble getting their populations to understand, you know, how grave this threat is and how, you know, how — how horrific, again, this particular group is, I think this will sort of stiffen their spine a little bit, at least in the short to medium term.


    So, Derek — Colonel Harvey, we heard King Abdullah of Jordan say, we are going to engage in a relentless fight now against the Islamic State.

    So do you see it making a difference in Jordan? Do you see it making a difference in other countries that are supposed to be part of this coalition?


    Well, I think it's clearly going to energize Jordan for the short time. But they have got limited capabilities. They have got good special operations forces, a good, but small air force. They need a change in U.S. strategy and U.S. enablers to really make a difference as far as their participation.

    Most importantly, this is not going to change the participation significantly in the military campaign. We will see some posturing, some rhetoric, but really no change in the coalition. The coalition is weak, and it's got real problems maintaining this coalition, particularly with the Shia-Sunni Arab divide.


    Well, a couple of things raise questions, staying with you, Colonel Harvey. What do you mean? What do you mean the problems holding together this — the coalition in the face of the Sunni-Shia divide?


    Well, Sunni Arabs, be they in the Gulf, in Jordan, you know, in countries of Syria and Iraq, the Sunni Arab communities, Turkey, they want to see an effort directed at the Assad regime and a check on Shia militia and Iranian influence in Iraq and Syria.

    Unfortunately, from my perspective, the U.S. administration is focused on rapprochement with Iran, and acknowledging Tehran's regional hegemony in the process, and that alienates Sunni Arabs, Ankara, and as well impacts Tel Aviv in Israel.

    So, that creates real problems for us in mobilizing support, keeping people online, and having unity of effort.


    How do you see, Janine Davidson, the problems there?


    Well, similar, but I'm not so sure that I think that the main driver for the coalition, for the administration is, is that they're ceding the space to Iran.

    I think — although I do think that that is definitely an issue across the region. But I think there's another issue here, which is if you take the fight completely 100 percent to Assad and ISIS at the same time, what's going to come next? And I think everyone is very focused on, can we do this in sequentially, you know? The alligator closest to the boat would be ISIS. Everybody can agree on that.

    But there's still this big hanging question, the political question of, what happens next? And even if you were to really defeat ISIS in any sort of traditional way, so that they're no longer a threat, then all the other problems are going to come up. You have the Sunni-Shia divide, and that is going to continue to be the problem throughout the region.


    What about that, Derek Harvey? And also you brought up the role of the U.S. in all this in the coalition. What are you suggesting?


    Well, what I see happening in Iraq in particular — let's take a look at that — the Abadi regime there, along with Iranian support, has given free rein to Shia militias who are conducting atrocities almost on a daily basis.

    And they openly proclaim the U.S. is supporting their operations, which feeds into Sunni Arab paranoia and supports the ISIS narrative about a divide and that the U.S. is aligned against Sunni Arabs in the region. So that hurts us in many ways.

    The U.S. has a choice here. We could declare no-fly zones, no-go zones in Syria. We could have put more capability on the ground and shown some leadership and commitment, which is what Sunni Arabs are looking for in the region, be they in the Gulf or in Ankara, in Turkey.

    But we have yet to really show real commitment. We have limited resources, limited authorities and a limited strategy, and that's not going to get buy-in from everybody.


    Janine Davidson, just in a few seconds, how do you see the U.S. role changing?


    Well, I mean, I think that the big problem here is that you have to strike a balance between — sure, we could go in full force, like Derek is saying. We could retake Mosul unilaterally if we wanted to.

    But I think that, at the end of the day, what happens then? And I'm not just talking about, oh, we're going to get bogged down in another quagmire. I'm talking about, what happens when the United States of America takes over another country? The problems in the region have got to be solved by the people in the region. And this is the most uncomfortable, frustrating part of it, is catalyzing that to happen. And that's what the role is of the U.S. right now.


    Since we have seen this movie before.




    Janine Davidson, Colonel Derek Harvey, we thank you both.


    Thank you, Judy.


    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment