"This is not our war and we should not be taking part in it."
That is how many Arabs and Muslims reacted to US President Barack Obama's plan to form an international coalition to fight the Islamic State [IS] terrorist organization, which is operating in Iraq and Syria and threatening to invade more Arab countries.
Islamic State terrorists have killed and wounded tens of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, mostly over the past few months. By contrast, Islamic State has targeted only a few Westerners, three of whom were beheaded in recent weeks.
Islamic State terrorists are also responsible for the displacement of millions of Iraqis and Syrians, and for the murder of many others.
Still, the atrocities committed by Islamic State against Arabs and Muslims, in addition to the immediate threat it poses to many of their countries, do not seem to be sufficient reason for them to declare war on the group.
While some Arabs and Muslims would prefer to see the U.S. and its Western allies fight Islamic State, others have voiced strong opposition to the new U.S.-led coalition against the group, mainly because they identify with the terrorists' anti-Western objectives and ideology.
Arab leaders last week told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that they would contribute "in many aspects" to the anti-Islamic State coalition. But most are not prepared to commit ground troops to the battle against its estimated 30,000 jihadis.
The Arab leaders who want the U.S. to wage war on Islamic State are afraid of being dubbed traitors and U.S. agents for joining non-Muslims in a war on a group that seeks to establish an Islamic Caliphate. Their main fear is that their people would rise up against them once they were seen fighting alongside non-Muslims in a war that would result in the death of many Muslims.
The most these Arab leaders are prepared to do to help the emerging U.S.-led coalition is provide logistical and intelligence aid to the Americans and their Western allies in the war on Islamic State.
Jordan, for its part, has agreed to train members of Iraqi tribes to help them fight Islamic State terrorists in Iraq. Jordan and most of the Gulf countries are also reported to be opposed to serving as launching pads for airstrikes on the terrorist bases in Iraq and Syria.
Although they have formally agreed to join the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, it appears that Arab leaders do not trust the Obama Administration when it comes to combating Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East.
Some of these leaders, such as Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, consider the U.S. Administration to be a major ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. Sisi and his regime will never forgive Obama for his support for the Muslim Brotherhood and deposed President Mohamed Morsi.
Will Sisi ever forgive the Obama Administration for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood? Above, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry chats with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on July 22, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)
Moreover, many Arabs and Muslims view Islamic State as a by-product of failed U.S. policies in the Middle East in the aftermath of the "Arab Spring." They say that the current U.S. Administration's weak-kneed support for former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his repressive measures against Sunnis paved the way for the emergence of Islamic State. They point out that Obama's hesitance to support the moderate and secular opposition in Syria also facilitated Islamic State's infiltration into that country.
Worse, there is no shortage of Arabs and Muslims who are convinced that Islamic State is actually an invention of Americans and "Zionists" to destroy the Arab world and tarnish the image of Islam.
The head of Egypt's Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, was recently quoted as saying that Islamic State terrorists were "colonial creations" serving a "Zionist" scheme to "destroy the Arab world."
Many Arabs and Muslims probably do not like Islamic State and view it as a real threat. But at the same time, they also do not seem to have much confidence in the Obama Administration, which is perceived as weak and incompetent when it comes to combating Islamists. They simply do not trust the Obama Administration.
Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi, Chairman of the Qatari-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, who is no fan of Islamic State, has also come out against the emerging U.S.-led coalition.
"Our ideological differences with Islamic State do not mean that we agree to an American attack on the group," al-Qaradawi explained. "America does not care about the values of Islam. It only cares about its own interests."
If there is one Arab leader who is really concerned about the repercussions of a war on Islamic State, it is Jordan's King Abdullah, who is facing growing domestic pressure to stay away from the U.S.-led coalition.
Ironically, this opposition comes despite Jordan clearly appearing to be the next target of the Islamic State jihadis. Some reports have even suggested that Islamic State terrorists have already succeeded in infiltrating the kingdom.
King Abdullah's dilemma is that if he joins the U.S.-led coalition, his country would be plunged into turmoil and instability. Yet the monarch is well aware that failure to take part in the war would facilitate the jihadis' mission of invading his kingdom.
Over the past week, many Jordanians have publicly come out against the idea of Jordan joining the new coalition. These voices are not coming only from Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, but also from secular individuals and groups.
Last week, 21 Jordanian parliament members wrote a letter to their government warning it against helping the Americans and their allies in the war on Islamic State.
Six Jordanian secular parties also joined the call in a statement addressed to the government: "We must resist imperialist schemes and continue to raise the motto of democracy, independence and freedom."
Reflecting widespread skepticism over Obama's intentions, Jordanian writer Maher Abu Tair, who is closely associated with King Abdullah, sounded an alarm: "Getting Jordan involved in the confrontation with Islamic State is a dangerous matter. If everyone is truly worried about Jordan, why not support it socially and economically instead of dragging it into a quagmire?"
Reflecting similar sentiments, another Jordanian writer, Abdel Hadi al Katamin, said: "Yes, this is not our war and we have nothing to do with it and we don't need it. We don't want to wage war on behalf of others in return for nothing and just to appease Obama. Not everything we hear and watch is correct. The best solution is for us to protect our borders and prevent Islamic State from infiltrating our country. If they come, then it will be our war."