On Wednesday, President Obama is scheduled to publicly unveil his plan to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militia, in a televised address to the nation. The New York Times has a preview, suggesting that the plan involves three stages.
The first step, airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq, is underway, spreading to western Iraq's Haditha Dam on Sunday. The second stage — training, arming, or otherwise aiding Kurdish, Iraqi, and potentially Sunni tribal militias — will start if and when Baghdad forms a more diverse, Sunni-friendly government. The third phase is the tricky one: Bombing ISIS targets inside Syria, with the goal of obliterating the militia's home base and refuge.
Some Pentagon planners tell The New York Times that this final phase could last at least 36 months, at which point Obama will be out of office. The president is expected to argue that it is worth doing this right. In taking the attack to ISIS, "we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum," Obama said on NBC's Meet the Press. "We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities; we're going to shrink the territory that they control; and, ultimately, we're going to defeat them."
"The military campaign Mr. Obama is preparing has no obvious precedent," says The New York Times: It won't be short like Kosovo, restricted to drone strikes like in Yemen and Pakistan, involve ground troops like in Afghanistan and Iraq, or feature the U.S. "leading from behind" as in Libya. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are traveling this week to firm up a coalition: Expected in some capacity are Britain, Germany, France, Australia, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan; Turkey is an important maybe.
On Sunday, the Arab League's foreign ministers agreed to do everything necessary to kneecap ISIS, including aiding international, regional, and national efforts to defeat the militia. The text of the agreement didn't specifically mention U.S. or Iraqi efforts to combat ISIS, but diplomats tell Reuters that such support is implicit.