- - Monday, August 11, 2014

Syrian President Bashar Assad is a cruel Syrian dictator, but those Islamists who have invaded Syria and now Iraq come from all over the world (particularly several oil-rich Islamic nations of the Middle East). They now call themselves the Islamic State and are bent on widespread aggression to create an Islamic caliphate designed to reign throughout the Middle East.

The Islamic State is far more cruel than Mr. Assad; witness the thousands of Yazidis they forced onto a mountaintop to die horribly of starvation and dehydration. Mr. Assad has been fighting the Islamic State for years and is trying to hold Syria together, but it has consolidated the Islamic factions fighting Mr. Assad’s ground forces in northern Syria and now threatens Irbil and Baghdad, then Basra, in Iraq, with Jordan next on the list to be conquered.

President Obama foolishly wants to arm native Syrians to fight Mr. Assad’s army instead of the Islamic State, but he can’t find any such people. Why? Because any who may once have existed have fled, been defeated by the Islamic State or have joined it.

Kurdistan’s brave Peshmerga fighters tried but were unable to resist the Islamic State’s thrust into eastern Kurdistan. The Kurds requested modern arms and equipment from Mr. Obama, but those requests were foolishly turned down, ostensibly because Mr. Obama feared this could accelerate the breakup of Iraq. Those requests should be honored immediately, before it becomes too late to save Iraq, whether partitioned or intact.

Syria and Kurdistan have the only dependable armed forces in that area capable of countering the Islamic State’s brutal march. Mr. Obama has finally recognized the threat it poses to Kurdistan and what’s left of Iraq, so he has authorized limited bombing in defense of Irbil. But why doesn’t Mr. Obama hold his nose, make a deal with Mr. Assad demanding some reforms in exchange for sending military arms and equipment with which Syria (perhaps operating jointly with Kurdistan) can better battle the aggressive Islamic invaders of Syria, northwest Iraq, eastern Kurdistan, and upcoming for the area of Baghdad?

Political correctness about the “rebellion” in Syria should be replaced with pragmatism and common sense in battling a common enemy.

M. ROBERT PAGLEE

Moorestown, N.J.