A global coalition is needed to contend with the Islamic State terrorist group, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times, the top US diplomat wrote that the group, which is active in Iraq and Syria, presents a “unifying threat to a broad array of countries, including the United States” — even in a polarized Middle East and a complicated world.
“What’s needed to confront its nihilistic vision and genocidal agenda is a global coalition using political, humanitarian, economic, law enforcement and intelligence tools to support military force,” Kerry wrote.
He went on to detail the Islamic State group’s actions in Iraq and Syria, which have included “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.”
Kerry warned that the group, whose fighters — some of them possessing foreign citizenship, such Mehdi Nemmouche, the “ISIS-associated terrorist” who killed four outside the Brussels Jewish Museum in May — have targeted or planned to target Western cities, “poses a threat well beyond the region.”
As the UK raised its threat level to “severe” amid worries that a jihadist attack on the country was “highly likely,” Kerry stated that “ISIS’ (the abbreviation for the group’s former name, which the US administration still uses) cadre of foreign fighters are a rising threat not just in the region, but anywhere they could manage to travel undetected — including to America.”
He added, “ISIS has its origins in what was once known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has over a decade of experience in extremist violence. The group has amassed a hardened fighting force of committed jihadists with global ambitions, exploiting the conflict in Syria and sectarian tensions in Iraq. Its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States.”
Kerry said that using “pirated oil, kidnapping and extortion to finance operations,” the group — now in a “larger, better-funded incarnation” — would “not be satisfied at stopping with Iraq and Syria” if left unchecked.
“They have already 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,” he said.
“ISIS fighters have exhibited repulsive savagery and cruelty. Even as they butcher Shiite Muslims and Christians in their effort to touch off a broader ethnic and sectarian conflict, they pursue a calculated strategy of killing fellow Sunni Muslims to gain and hold territory. The beheading of an American journalist, James Foley, has shocked the conscience of the world.”
The only way to stop the Islamic State group’s rapid and merciless advance, which Kerry likened to a spreading cancer, was “a united response led by the United States and the broadest possible coalition of nations.
“The world can confront this scourge, and ultimately defeat it,” Kerry wrote, ending his op-ed on a hopeful note. “ISIS is odious, but not omnipotent. We have proof already in northern Iraq, where United States airstrikes have shifted the momentum of the fight, providing space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to go on the offensive. With our support, Iraq’s leaders have come together to form a new, inclusive government that is essential to isolating ISIS and securing the support of all of Iraq’s communities.”
Airstrikes weren’t enough, Kerry warned, adding that he and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel would meet on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Wales with their counterparts from Europe, then travel to the Middle East to seek support there, with the goal of “enlisting the broadest possible assistance” for an anti-IS campaign.
Thus far, US military operations in Iraq, including airstrikes and surveillance flights, have cost about $560 million since mid-June, the Pentagon said Friday. US Central Command announced four additional airstrikes, bringing the total since they began on Aug. 8 to 110. Central Command said Friday’s missions by US fighter and attack aircraft destroyed four armed vehicles and three support vehicles in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam. One armed vehicle was damaged, it said without providing more details.
“A much fuller response is demanded from the world. We need to support Iraqi forces and the moderate Syrian opposition, who are facing ISIS on the front lines. We need to disrupt and degrade ISIS’ capabilities and counter its extremist message in the media. And we need to strengthen our own defenses and cooperation in protecting our people.”
AP contributed to this report.