NEW YORK - US Secretary of State John Kerry Saturday called for a ‘global coalition’ to combat Islamic State militants who have seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
In an opinion article for the New York Times, Kerry wrote that the United States is seeking to build a coalition of nations to provide military, humanitarian, economic and diplomatic assistance to ‘stamp out’ the ‘cancer’ of the Islamic State group, formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Over time, he said, this coalition could ‘address the underlying factors that fuel ISIS and other terrorist organizations with like-minded agendas.’ As part of this effort, he said, this coalition would seek to strengthen Iraqi forces and the moderate Syrian opposition in fighting the Islamic State group.
Kerry said that, on the sidelines of a NATO summit next week, he and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will try to enlist their EU counterparts to this coalition. He added that when the United States holds the presidency of the UN Security Council in September, it will ‘continue to build a broad coalition and highlight the danger posed by foreign terrorist fighters,’ and US President Barack Obama will present a plan to deal with this threat.
Describing its ‘acts of sheer evil,’ Kerry said the Islamic State group has ‘demonstrated the ability to seize and hold more territory than any other terrorist organization, in a strategic region that borders Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey and is perilously close to Israel.’ The group ‘poses a threat well beyond the region,’ he added, but said that with a ‘united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations, the cancer of ISIS will not be allowed to spread to other countries.’
Kerry said only ‘some’ countries would be asked to provide direct or indirect military aid against Isis, and that others would provide humanitarian assistance or ‘help restore not just shattered economies but broken trust among neighbours’.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly stated that no US troops will be sent back to Iraq, but special-forces teams have operated in the country, including participating in a humanitarian effort to relieve Yazidi refugees stranded on Mount Sinjar. Obama’s rationale to cover the strikes, of which there have now been more than 100 in a country in which US combat operations officially ended four years ago on Sunday, is that they protect US personnel on the ground, including in the embassy in Baghdad.
Republicans in Congress have led calls for a more aggressive strategy against ISIS, beyond the strikes which the Obama administration has confined to the north of Iraq, around the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Irbil and the Mosul dam. Last weekend Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House of Representatives homeland security committee, called ISIS ‘the worst threat to the US since 9/11’ and said: ‘We need to expand air strikes so you can ultimately defeat and eliminate ISIS.
‘Don’t kid yourself for a second that they aren’t intent on hitting our homeland, I think the threat is very real.’ Such criticism intensified after Obama told White House reporters on Thursday: ‘We don’t have a strategy yet.’ In the New York Times, Kerry wrote: ‘In addition to its beheadings, crucifixions and other acts of sheer evil, which have killed thousands of innocents in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, including Sunni Muslims whose faith it purports to represent, ISIS poses a threat well beyond the region.’