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War against Islamic State group 'is not America's fight alone' says Obama

US Secretary of State John Kerry said ancient treasures in Iraq and Syria have become the causalities of warfare.

Airstrike of an ISIL storage facility in Syria.
Airstrike of an ISIL storage facility in Syria.
Image: US Defense Facebook Page

THE ONE-TWO-three punch of American and Arab air strikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq was just the beginning, President Barack Obama and other leaders have declared. They promised a sustained campaign showcasing a rare US-Arab partnership aimed at Muslim extremists.

At the same time, in fresh evidence of how the terrorist threat continues to expand and mutate, the US on its own struck a new al-Qaida cell that the Pentagon said was “nearing the execution phase” of a direct attack on the US or Europe.

“This is not America’s fight alone,” Obama said of the military campaign against the Islamic State group.

We’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.

Obama said the US was “proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with Arab partners, and he called the roll: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said four of the five had participated in the strikes, with Qatar playing a supporting role.

The British Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain cannot opt out of a battle against Islamic State jihadists. He told NBC News: ”This is a fight you cannot opt out of.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Turkey, too, is joining the coalition against the Islamic State group and “will be very engaged on the front lines of this effort.”

Heritage destruction 

 

He denounced IS’s destruction of heritage in Syria and Iraq this week also.

Speaking at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York Monday night, the US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the spread of ISIL forces in Syria and Iraq is “one of the most tragic and one of the most outrageous assaults on our shared heritage that perhaps any of us have seen in a lifetime.

No one group has done more to put our shared cultural heritage in the gun sights that ISIL.

Source: eNCAnews/YouTube

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in New York for U.N. meetings, said he was considering expanding support of NATO operations against the Islamic State to include military involvement.

In all, Kerry said, more than 50 nations are allied in the fight.

Threat

It was a measure of the gravity of the threat and the complex politics of the problem that Syrian President Bashar Assad gave an indirect nod of approval to the airstrikes in his own country, saying he supported “any international anti-terrorism effort.” There has been concern among US officials that any strikes against militants fighting Assad could be seen as inadvertently helping the leader whom Obama wants to see ousted from power.

Monday night, in three waves of attacks launched over four hours, the US and its Arab partners made more than 200 airstrikes against roughly a dozen militant targets in Syria, including Islamic State headquarters, training camps and barracks as well as targets of the rival Nusra Front, al-Qaida’s branch within Syria.

The first wave, conducted by the USalone, focused mostly on a shadowy network of al-Qaida veterans known as the Khorasan Group, based in northwestern Syria.

US COALITION ISIL AIRSTRIKES Source: AP

“We’ve been watching this group closely for some time, and we believe the Khorasan group was nearing the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the homeland,” said Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The group is known to be working with the Yemeni branch of al-Qaida to recruit foreign fighters with Western passports and explosives to target US aviation.

Pentagon officials released photos and video showing strikes on rooftop communications equipment at an Islamic State finance centre in Raqqa, the group’s self-declared capital in Syria.

Another showed damage to a command-and-control building in the same city. A third showed damage in a residential area along the Syrian-Iraqi border that had been used as a training site for fighters.

Source: U.S. Central Command/YouTube

Civilian deaths

A Syrian activist group reported that dozens of Islamic State fighters were killed in the strikes, but the numbers could not be independently confirmed. Several activists also reported at least 10 civilians killed.

Even as the military was still assessing the full impact of the strikes, US officials pledged there was more to come.

Obama met at the United Nations on Tuesday with representatives of the five Arab nations and told them the airstrikes were “obviously not the end of the effort, but this is the beginning.” Mayville promised “a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State.

The participation of the Arab nations marked an unusual public convergence of interests between the United States and its Sunni Arab partners against the Sunni Islamic State group.

Nations

Each of the five had privately supported US action, but until now had shied away from overt military cooperation against the militants, fearing reprisals. Each of the nations faces threats from militant Sunnis, but they all also harbor fears of growing assertiveness in the region by Iran, which is largely a Shiite country.

Barack Obama, King Abdullah II , John Kerry Source: AP

Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the top American military leader, called the coalition unprecedented and said the partnering had set the stage for a broader international campaign against the extremists.

“We wanted to make sure that ISIL knew they have no safe haven, and we certainly achieved that,” Dempsey told reporters as he flew to Washington after a week long trip to Europe. ISIL is an alternate name for the Islamic State group whose fighters swept across much of Iraq this summer.

Said Kerry in New York:

We are going to do what is necessary to take the fight to ISIL, to begin to make clear that terrorism, extremism does not have a place in the building of civilized society.

 

Additional reporting Christina Finn 

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