Originally published in Foreign Affairs
Last week, Iraqi Sunni tribes in Anbar Province pledged loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his Islamic State, also called ISIS. Their timing was stunning. Just hours before, at a press conference in Paris, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken had outlined his support for an acceleration of the United States’ training and equipping those very tribes. But next thing he knew, they were parading in front of cameras in full support of ISIS.
Terrible optics aside, these events should not be misunderstood as a Sunni vote of confidence in the “caliph’s” leadership. Rather, they are a manifestation of the Iraqi government’s continued failures.