At talks in Paris on supporting Iraq's battle against Islamic State (IS) militants on Monday, world leaders and diplomats vowed to defeat the Islamist group by “any means necessary”, including by providing “appropriate military assistance”.
Representatives from around 30 countries, including the United States, Russia, China and Iraq, as well as several international organisations gathered in the French capital on Monday.
In a joint statement issued after the talks, diplomats vowed to support Baghdad “in line with the needs expressed by the Iraqi authorities, in accordance with international law and without jeopardising civilian security.”
They stressed that IS extremists were “a threat not only to Iraq but also to the entire international community” and underscored the “urgent need” to remove them from Iraq, where they control some 40 percent of its territory.
Syrian chaos ‘benefitting’ IS, while global fight on militants could benefit Assad
While there was no mention of Syria in the final statement, Hollande said the international community “needs to find a durable solution in the place where the Islamic State (IS) movement was born… Syria.”
“In the past few years, there have been 200,000 victims of the Syrian crisis. The chaos there is benefiting the terrorists. We therefore need to support those who can make the required compromises to secure the future of Syria,” said Hollande.
Iraqi President Fouad Massoum also urged world powers to prevent the group labelling itself the Islamic State from establishing “sanctuaries” in neighbouring Syria.
“We must pursue them wherever they are,” Massoum said.
President Barack Obama’s plan for tackling IS includes air strikes in Syria. Some analysts say that the American decision to intervene could actually be a propaganda victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose “longstanding strategy” is to persuade “the world it faces a stark choice between him and Islamist militants who threaten the West,” according to the New York Times.
The question of who would gain military advantage from US airstrikes, however, remains harder to predict. The Syrian army or Western-backed moderate rebels could both potentially gain ground from US airstrikes.
“The fight of the Iraqis against terrorism is our fight as well,” Hollande stressed, urging “clear, loyal and strong” global support for Baghdad.
However, the final statement made no mention of Syria, where the extremists hold a quarter of the country and where the regime of Bashar al-Assad still had friends around the Paris conference table, including Russia.
French jets head to region
The international community is scrambling to contain the IS militants — who have rampaged across Iraq and Syria and could number as many as 31,500 fighters, according to the CIA.
The gruesome beheading of British aid worker David Haines over the weekend increased pressure on international governments to respond. Haines was the third Western hostage to be beheaded by the militants in less than a month. IS has threatened another British captive, Alan Henning, with a similar fate.
As if to underscore the urgency of the campaign, France’s Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced just hours ahead of the conference that it was joining Britain in carrying out reconnaissance flights in support of the US air campaign against the militants. Later on Monday, two French Rafale fighter jets took off from the Al-Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates, an AFP correspondent reported.
For his part, Iraqi President Fouad Masum also stressed the urgency of the crisis, saying there was a risk the militants could overrun more countries in the region.
“We are still asking for regular aerial operations against terrorist sites. We have to pursue them wherever they are. We need to dry up their sources of finance,” added the Iraqi leader.
Growing international response to crisis
The Paris conference was one of a series of diplomatic gatherings in the run-up to a United Nations General Assembly later this week.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said meetings would come “thick and fast” in the coming days and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius said there would soon be a conference on IS funding organised by Bahrain.
Kerry has been travelling extensively in a bid to build as broad a coalition as possible. The coalition received a boost when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged 600 troops to the effort.
Ten Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, are among the countries backing the coalition. Speaking in Paris, a US official said the number of countries signing on was “going up almost every hour”, from Europe and the Middle East right across to Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
Kerry said over the weekend that “all bases were covered” in terms of implementing US President Barack Obama’s strategy to destroy the militant group.
Obama’s plan includes air strikes in Syria and expanded operations in Iraq, where US aircraft have carried out more than 160 strikes since early August. The US leader also foresees training “moderate” Syrian rebels to take on IS and the Iraqi army, parts of which fled a brutal IS blitzkrieg across northern and western Iraq.
Iran says US has ‘dirty hands’
Iran, which was not invited to the conference, said it had rejected US overtures to help in the fight against the militants.
“Right from the start, the United States asked through its ambassador in Iraq whether we could cooperate,” supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a statement on his official website.
“I said no, because they have dirty hands,” said Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran.
The US has ruled out any military cooperation with Shiite powerhouse Iran on fighting the jihadists, but Kerry said Washington remained open to some form of collaboration.
“That doesn't mean that we are opposed to the idea of communicating to find out if they (Iran) will come on board, or under what circumstances, or whether there is the possibility of a change,'' Kerry told a small group of reporters on Monday.
Iran's possible involvement remains a matter of debate, however. France and Iraq see Tehran as an important regional player that could use its influence against the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State. But some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, disagree.
Iran already has a military presence in Iraq. Iran’s top military leader, Qassem Soleimani, has made several trips to the Iraqi front line against the Islamic State. Recent footage allegedly showing him in the Iraqi city of Amerli fuelled rumours that the top military mastermind is working with the United States to push back the IS militants.
Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei: US 'lacks direction'
Date created : 2014-09-15