The first US strikes against ISIL were on August 8th. Since then, Washington seems to have accomplished a stunning feat in rallying countries committed to opposing the jihadist group militarily, politically or logistically — around 50 countries, the US says.
When President Barack Obama spoke at United Nations headquarters in New York on Wednesday, the gloves were off: “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force! So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death. In this effort, we do not act alone.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry was assured by ten Arab countries of their willingness to act against ISIL, two weeks ago in Saudi Arabia — exceptional US-led collective military action in concert with regional powers.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan are even part of the airstrike force, concerted regional military action unheard of since the 1991 Gulf War.
Strikes inside Syria carry even greater risks than in Iraq. The US is acting without a UN mandate, and the Syrian government has not asked for American help — while the Iraqi government has. Washington does not want its enemy Bashar al Assad to reap benefits from the anti-ISIL offensive.
Assad friend and regional power Iran is not part of the coalition. NATO ally Turkey has been holding out on joining, although Ankara made encouraging noises on Tuesday.
It has its own security to manage, along with an estimated 1.6 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees. It might offer military or logistical support against ISIL. Allies want to use the US air base at İncirlik.
Shoulder to shoulder with the US are France (first — they’ve struck ISIL with air power) and Britain — this is expected, pending a green light from parliament this Friday — followed by Australia, Belgium and the Netherlands — perhaps with aircraft and experts.
European Union-endorsed weapons to anti-ISIL Kurdish Peshmerga forces in Iraq from Germany have already been delivered, and training offered.
How long any coalition against a common enemy can last, with so many diverse interests, is open to question.
Washington has said the offensive could last for months, even years.