Against Trump's repeated emphasis throughout the campaign of eradicating "radical Islamic terrorism," the neocon Deep Statists led by NatSec Advisor McMaster are trying to re-frame the battle to be against only "ISIS" or perhaps also "al-Qaeda".
More encompassing terms like (radical) Islamic terrorists, jihadists, Islamists, Salafis, Wahhabis, etc. are not to be used because they will insult "our Muslim allies in the region" -- namely the Saudis, Turks, et al. who spread Salafi ideology through radical mosques all over the world, and who bankroll jihadist violence, whether that be conquest in the Middle East or spectacle terrorism in the West a la 9/11.
It has been SOP since the 1980s that the US foreign policy Establishment will align with jihadists against a government that resists incorporation into the American sphere of influence -- in Palestine (Hamas over PLO), Afghanistan (Mujahadeen over Soviet clients), Iraq (topple Saddam), and Libya (topple Qaddafi).
The difficulty comes with these jihadists turning on their paymasters, in most spectacular form on 9/11. It needs to be emphasized that these are not foreigners who we have attacked and are settling scores with us. They are Frankenstein's monster turning on its creator -- ethnocentric zealots stabbing foreign supporters in the back.
It's no different from naive Europeans who "welcome refugees," only to get robbed, raped, and run over by them.
"You knew damn well I was a snake, before you took me in!"
Blowback makes it impossible for the Establishment to continue supporting the group responsible, yet they still want to carry on the general program of aligning with jihadists. So the propaganda ramps up attacks on the specific group who blew up the World Trade Center (al-Qaeda), or the specific group whose loyalists shot up the Bataclan nightclub (ISIS).
That leaves the whole rest of the ever-evolving roster of jihadist groups out of sight and out of mind, for the general public. It's best not to name them at all, but if so, with non-alarming qualifiers like the "opposition" or "rebel" or "Sunni militia" group al-Nusra. Since al-Nusra is simply al-Qaeda by a new-and-improved name, the Establishment and its propaganda outlets in the media can go on supporting jihadists while not taking flak from the public, who has only heard of ISIS and al-Qaeda in the context of jihadism.
And if al-Nusra becomes too infamous for killing or threatening Americans, they can always re-brand to Ahrar al-Sham, or Tahrir al-Sham, or any other damn name that is too hard to pronounce or remember for the American people.
That is why our foreign policy Establishment will only commit to fighting "ISIS" and "al-Qaeda" in Syria, while we openly provide money, weapons, and positive spin to their jihadist brothers with different names.
And that is why we will remain at an impasse with the Syrian / Russian / Iranian side who are winning the war against the jihadists -- they intend to neutralize all jihadist groups because jihadism is a threat to their nation's security and stability. The American Establishment only intends to neutralize ISIS and al-Qaeda for bringing such bad reputation to the cause of supporting jihadism against governments that do not want to be part of the American sphere of influence.
Doesn't jihadism threaten America's national security, though? It does to some extent, but the Establishment is willing to write off those losses, in order to scoop up more of the oil-rich and militarily strong nations of the Middle East into its sphere of influence. It's another way in which the elites concentrate the benefits of policy at the top and stick the middle and bottom of the pyramid with all of the costs.
There is likely a similar dynamic at work within, e.g., Saudi Arabia. Only the elites benefit from being part of the American sphere of influence -- their elites' jihadism is likely to antagonize the American people into seeking revenge against the entire country, where the bottom rungs of the ladder would serve as cannon fodder against an invasion by Uncle Sam.
The social mood is currently more nationalist in Syria, Russia, and Iran, although these moods rise and fall in long-term cycles.
The US looked to join this trend with the election of Trump -- getting along with Russia, airstrikes in Syria could start WWIII, cut deal with Iran rather than continue getting stabbed in back by Saudis, etc. In general, don't put the middle and lower layers of society at risk, or picking up the tab, just so the protected elites get to masturbate furiously over expanding America's sphere of influence.
That has been put on hold, but only because Trump has not cleared out the anti-American personnel in the branches of government that touch on the military and foreign policy. That interest group can push back more forcefully against its region of the swamp getting drained, since they are the instruments of the legitimate monopoly on violence that is the basis for the President's authority.
Over the eight years of the Trump administration, he and the relatively less neocon individuals will come to fill out more and more of the military Deep State with personnel committed to a realistic, up-to-date assessment of where the major threats lie, and where the major alliances ought to be made.
Achieving that requires us to speak in general terms about our enemies -- jihadism, Islamic terrorism, etc., and not just "ISIS" or "al-Qaeda". Otherwise the general public will keep thinking there's nothing so wrong with aligning ourselves with the Saudis, "Syrian rebels" like al-Nusra, and whatever the hell they change their brand to next week.
The key country to spread the word about is Saudi Arabia, not only for their central role, but because a good share of the American people already know that they're bad, that's where bin Laden came from, and that's who attacked us on 9/11, for which we still have not gotten revenge. Antipathy toward Saudi Arabia is also completely bipartisan (just as is support for them among the globalists).
Since the Saudis are on the opposite side from Russia, breaking ourselves free from them will also allow us to pursue crucial detente with the other nuclear superpower during a climate that is pre-WWI.