Regional Discord Fuels Islamic State’s Rise in Mideast
Competition among major players for influence trumps defeating extremistsByYaroslav Trofimov in Dubai and Philip Shishkin in Washington, WSJ
Oct. 16, 2015 5:08 p.m. ET
Pretty much everyone in the Middle East is supposed to be fighting against Islamic State. Yet, the Sunni extremist group retains large swaths of Syria and Iraq and is spreading elsewhere in the region.
This isn’t because of its military might or strategic sophistication. The explanation is different: For most of the major players in the complicated conflicts ravaging the Middle East, the defeat of Islamic State remains a secondary goal, subordinate to more pressing objectives.
For some of these powers, Islamic State’s existence and its barbarism are actually useful, for now, because they serve as a lever in conflicts with more immediate and dangerous foes.
Though able to take advantage of sectarian fissures in Syrian and Iraqi societies to carve out a territory the size of the U.K., Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, isn’t strong enough to represent a conventional military threat to the region’s biggest nations.
But these countries do live in existential fear of some of their neighbors.