Tariq Alhomayed, former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, said: “There are a number of reasons as to why I conceive this as a Sunni battle. One is that the lack of a prominent Sunni presence fighting ISIS will leave the door open for Iran and sect-based militias to fill the vacuum in Syria and Iraq.
“This will seriously threaten the unity of these countries, helping Assad to turn Syria into a country of militias, or bringing about more Nuri Al-Maliki-style sectarian politics in Iraq—or a scenario in either country along the lines of the Houthi takeover of Yemen.
“The international anti-ISIS coalition now needs to shift gear and put Arab boots on the ground in Syria and Iraq, bolstering these forces with aerial bombardment. This is the only way to contain and eventually destroy ISIS.”
It would include sending in a coalition of ground troops from Arab countries as well as funding and arming the Free Syrian Army, and Assad must not be allowed to benefit from ISIS’s becoming weakened as a result of this offensive, he said.
Mr Alhomayed added: “After all, it was Assad who allowed, and directly helped, ISIS grow and become stronger until he could use the group as a crutch with which to hold the world ransom with two stark choices: me, or the deluge. In reality, ISIS and Assad are two sides of the same coin.
“I say of all this now because it has become clear that air-strikes will not be enough to defeat ISIS. They will not bring about peace and security in the region either, or strengthen the FSA.
“Ultimately, everyone knows the international anti-ISIS coalition is just a cover for the Obama administration’s spineless reluctance to make any lasting decisions or take any real action in the Middle East.
“It is, then, our war, one that will at last truly take the battle to ISIS. But there is only one way to do this: Arab troops on the ground, full support for the FSA, and reining in Assad and Iran.