In foreign affairs, Obama has publicly adopted “soft diplomacy” as his way of resolving crises. Key to this approach is “leading from behind,” that is, pressuring or convincing other countries or international organizations to take the lead in crisis response, with the US becoming just one of several partners. 

Hundreds of young Muslim women from the west who travelled to Syria to marry fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as Isis, are part of what experts call, the “soft-power” of the militants. Isis has used social media to attract new recruits and build an image of the group as a reincarnation of the just and righteous state to which many Muslims aspire.

The State Department is trying hard to counter online propaganda from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The information battleground includes Twitter and video messages, terrain that ISIL knows well. In addition to having too little money and too few people, the department is forced to conform to federal rules requiring that its work be identified as coming from the U.S. government.

Over the past few days, the positions and activities of the GCC and Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon are becoming clearer against ISIS. The group, which met in Jeddah on Sept. 11, can now be dubbed the GCC+4.  First, the GCC+4 is to develop a multi-prong approach to soft power options to break ISIS’s logistical chains in manpower and finance as well as to develop counter-narratives to negate the group’s capabilities and messaging.

Pro-independence flyers in Scotland

CPD Advisory Board Member Kounalakis on what gets lost when independence is gained.

Mr. Obama is acting as polls show rapidly shifting public opinion, with a large majority of Americans now favoring military action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, even as they express deep misgivings about the president’s leadership, Mr. Obama is also facing difficult crosscurrents on Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers, initially reluctant to demand congressional authorization of military action, have begun agitating for a vote...

The video that became prominent last week is one of several on a new State Department YouTube channel in English aimed at disaffected young Western Muslims who may be wowed by the Islamic State’s battlefield momentum. The counter message is simple: These guys are lying to you, and if you go to Syria to fight Western oppression you’ll just end up killing innocent Muslims.

A protestor in Tahrir Square, Cairo, holds up a portrait of former President Nasir, 2011

CPD University Fellow Laurie Brand considers the evolution of Middle Eastern nation branding with a focus on Algeria and Egypt.