September 24, 2014
WASHINGTON — According to President Barack Obama and the Pentagon, five countries — Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — joined the United States in this week's airstrikes in Syria. It's a staged family portrait: five Sunni governments united against extremism. Obama says the coalition shows that "people and governments in the Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up [for] peace and security."
Backstage, the reality is messier. The five official partners are mostly for show. In terms of firepower, they delivered less punch than the United States did. Qatar didn't participate directly, and it's already complaining that the bombardment is unfair and won't accomplish anything. Meanwhile, the United States is hiding or downplaying the involvement of other countries whose complicity, if acknowledged, might do more political harm than good.