When French President Francois Hollande declared war on ISIS and called the attack in Paris an “act of war,” he gave the terrorist organization’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi an unexpected boost. He upgraded the Muslim caliphate to a fully-fledged state against which France is now at war. US President Barack Obama was more cautious, declaring at the G-20 summit in Antalya that his country and France would fight together against terror, without specifying how.
Obama has problems of his own. The attempt to portray the Kurdish conquest of the city of Sinjar in northern Iraq as an important achievement in the war against ISIS dissipated quickly after Peshmerga troops were shown on TV moving into a city that was empty and lying in ruins, after it was abandoned by Islamic State forces. There was no battle there either.
Also, the US and Kurdish claims that they had severed the main road link between the ISIS capitals in Iraq and Syria, Mosul and Raqqa, proved hollow as ISIS had stopped using that route months ago after it became vulnerable to American air strikes.
If that wasn’t enough, Obama ran into an obstacle in Antalya.
The summit’s host, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who is consumed by an overriding aversion to an independent Kurdish state rising on his country’s border, demanded a declaration that all Kurdish forces, including the Peshmerga, the PKK and the YPG, on which the US depends heavily for fighting the war against ISIS, be classified as terrorists and targeted by the West just like ISIS.
Therefore, before broaching any decisions about intensifying the war on the Islamist terrorists, Western and Muslim countries were already at odds on targets.
It therefore makes no sense for President Hollande to try and invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter under which an act of war against one member of the alliance is tantamount to a war on all. Furthermore, making this a NATO operation would rule out a priori any collaboration with Russia in the campaign against ISIS, despite their common objective. Vladimir Putin was already vexed over the feeble Western response to the bombing of a Russian airliner killing 224 people, compared to the global outcry over the Paris outrage.
Read More: Hollande, Obama lack the troops and will for total war on ISIS. Mid East rulers are even more reluctant