by David Ignatius, Daily Star, Lebanon
Gen. John Allen must sometimes feel that he’s navigating a maze as he organizes the coalition to defeat ISIS: Iran is a silent partner in Iraq but a potential adversary in Syria and elsewhere; Turkey and Saudi Arabia are crucial allies, but skittish and self-interested ones; the very map of battle is uncertain, as boundaries in the region begin to blur.
When Allen took the job in September, ISIS fighters had overrun much of Iraq and Syria, and President Barack Obama was worried that Jordan and Saudi Arabia might be next.
The expansion of ISIS has been halted and its members now fear to travel in convoys; when the extremists fought an open battle at Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani, in Syria, they lost an estimated 1,000 fighters.
The most perplexing problem is Syria, where the coalition members have different agendas.
What’s more, the coalition doesn’t now have a credible means of defeating the extremists in Syria.