Obama to set out plan against ISIL, Arab League to back -UPDATED

Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo back Iraqi and US efforts to confront militants who have overrun large areas of Iraq and Syria

Obama to set out plan against ISIL, Arab League to back -UPDATED

World Bulletin/News Desk

Arab League foreign ministers agreed on Sunday to take all necessary measures to confront ISIL and cooperate with international, regional and national efforts to combat militants who have overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria.

The Arab League also endorsed in the closing statement of its meeting in Cairo a UN Security Council resolution passed last month calling on member states to "act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria".

Baghdad had earlier submitted a draft resolution endorsing its own efforts to confront militants who have seized large areas for a cross-border caliphate and to condemn ISIL's actions as war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Diplomatic sources said before the meeting that Arab foreign ministers were set to endorse a U.S. aerial campaign against the group and Egypt's official Mena news agency said the ministers would agree to coordinate with the United States.

The final text did not directly endorse either the Iraqi or U.S. campaign against ISIL, but diplomatic sources said the wording clearly offered Arab cooperation to U.S. and Iraqi efforts and could be read as a tacit agreement to back Washington's campaign against the group.

At the opening session, several foreign ministers spoke of the gravity of the challenge posed by ISIL in Iraq as well as the violence that has engulfed Libya and other regions.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi told the session that the rise of the group in Iraq challenged not merely the authority of the state but "its very existence and the existence of other states" and called for a decisive resolution to confront terrorism militarily, politically, economically and culturally.

Arabi suggested that military action could take place under the umbrella of an Arab League joint defence pact.

It was not clear whether the Arab commitment to take all necessary action against ISIL and other militant groups would include direct military involvement in Iraq or Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is to travel to Saudi Arabia and Jordan in the coming week for talks with Gulf leaders to determine whether they are prepared to back up their rhetoric with action.

In a change of position, the Arab League statement also called for Syrian opposition groups to hold talks with the state aimed at creating a reconciliation government.

As the Syrian conflict has dragged on and militants have taken the upper hand, early Arab League support for opponents of Bashar al-Assad has given way to a more cautious tone.

OBAMA'S STRATEGY

President Barack Obama said he will explain to Americans and congressional leaders this week his plan to "start going on some offense" against ISIL militants, who he said could eventually become a threat to the United States.

Obama will make a speech on Wednesday to "describe what our game plan's going to be," and meet congressional leaders on Tuesday to seek their support for his strategy.

The president, who campaigned on getting U.S. troops out of Iraq, has struggled to articulate how he wants to address ISIL, telling reporters last month that "we don't have a strategy yet" to tackle the group.

"I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we're going to deal with it and to have confidence that we'll be able to deal with it," Obama said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" that aired on Sunday. The interview was conducted in Washington on Saturday.

"The next phase is now to start going on some offense," he said.

The Wednesday speech will come a day ahead of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"I want everybody to understand that we have not seen any immediate intelligence about threats to the homeland" from the ISIL group, Obama said.

But the group has attracted foreign fighters from Western nations who could travel to the United States "unimpeded," Obama said. "Over time, that can be a serious threat to the homeland," he said.

He ruled out sending U.S. ground troops to fight in Iraq or Syria, saying "this is not the equivalent of the Iraq war," and described the coalition he spent time building last week at a NATO meeting in Wales.

This is going to be "similar to the kinds of counterterrorism campaigns that we've been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years," Obama said.

"We are going to be a part of an international coalition, carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops," Obama said. Nine other countries have agreed to be "core" members of the coalition.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are engaged in a mission in the region to flesh out the plan. "We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We're going to shrink the territory that they control. And ultimately we're going to defeat 'em," Obama said.

He emphasized the United States would need Sunni Arab states in the region including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey to "step up" and help.

Obama wants regional allies to help win over and work with disaffected Sunni tribes in Iraq - an effort he said could include an "economic element."

KERRY TALKS

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed combat against ISIL militants with the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil Elaraby ahead of the Arab League summit Sunday. 

According to a senior U.S. State Department official, they discussed the need for the Arab League and its members to take a strong position in the coalition that is developing against the ISIL, or IS. 

Kerry underscored the importance of decisive action to stop the flow of foreign fighters, to counter the financing of the ISIL, and to combat its incitement, in his phone call with Elaraby. 

He also noted that fighting ISIL militants would require "a holistic approach" that will take time, persistence; and require combining military, law enforcement, intelligence, and both economic and diplomatic tools. 

"Both leaders also recognized that Iraq is on the front line in the war against the ISIL and that Iraq, the United States, the region, and the international community must stand together to assist Iraq in facing this threat," said the senior official, using an alternative abbreviation for the militant group.   

In addition, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the leader of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional administration, Masoud Barzani.

According to a statement from the White House, the Biden and Barzani discussed the ongoing efforts to complete the formation of the Iraqi government.

"The vice president emphasized the urgency of work to put in place a new government as quickly as possible," the statement said. 

Armed groups linked to the IS, formerly known as the ISIL of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, have captured large amounts of territory in Iraq in recent months, forcing thousands of Iraqis including Turkmen, Arabs and Ezidis to flee.

The United States has conducted a total of 133 airstrikes across Iraq on IS targets since President Barack Obama authorized the military to carry out an air campaign in early August.

However, as the insurgent groups have bases in Syria and recruit foreign fighters from dozens of countries including several western countries, both the U.S. and European powers have been in search of a global and regional coalition to fight and uproot the ISIL threat in the Middle East. 

 

Last Mod: 07 Eylül 2014, 22:01
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