National Defense Magazine cites the Atlantic Council for hosting a conference call on the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham and quotes VP and Rafik Hariri Center Director Francis Ricciardone:

Counting on the combat skills of the Iraqis for the ground fight is risky, however, Hayden said Sept. 11 during a conference call hosted by the Atlantic Council. “I would double down on the Kurds,” he said. “Ever since the ISIS sweep through Western Iraq, I have difficulty imagining a future scenario in which the Iraqi army is going to re-conquer the territory that ISIS has taken.”


Francis Ricciardone, former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Egypt, said the president’s plan is too focused on defeating and dismantling ISIS and short on how to deal with the larger problems that brought ISIS into existence. “Whether we can defeat ISIS in a short timeframe, there is strategic problem across the region,” he said during the call. “ISIS is a manifestation of a larger problem” that is the breakdown of the legal order that underpinned the stability of the region since the Ottoman Empire collapsed nearly a century ago.

“You could remove ISIS and still have weak failing states across the region,” said Ricciardone. “By suggesting ISIS is the central problem we exaggerate their power and standing and what they’re capable of.” By exaggerate their stature, he said, the United States unwittingly is helping their recruiting. ISIS taps into anti-U.S. sentiment to sign up recruits. Obama is exacerbating the problem by focusing too much on the potential threat of ISIS attacking the United States. “This follows in the U.S. habit of making the issue ‘about us,’” Ricciardone said. He is hopeful that Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel can rally allies in the Middle East so the fight becomes more about the powers in the region, not about the United States. 

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Related Experts: Francis J. Ricciardone