Kerry: Role for Iran in fight against Islamic State

State Department lists 55 countries in international coalition against jihadist group

US Secretary of State John Kerry chairs a meeting of the United Nations Security Council September 19, 2014 at the United Nations in New York. (Photo credit: AFP/Don Emmert)
US Secretary of State John Kerry chairs a meeting of the United Nations Security Council September 19, 2014 at the United Nations in New York. (Photo credit: AFP/Don Emmert)

US Secretary of State John Kerry brought together 35 countries at the UN Security Council on Friday to build support for Iraq’s new government and the campaign to confront jihadists.

The crisis triggered by the Islamic State group’s seizure of large tracts of Iraq and Syria has challenged countries that are often at loggerheads to confront a common enemy.

Washington’s traditional foe Iran was represented at the meeting as were US allies France, Britain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Kerry said the turnout showed “the clear need for all of us to come together, to welcome and to support the new inclusive government in Iraq and of course to put an end to ISIL’s unfettered barbarity.”

Tehran is supporting both Iraq and Syria in its battle against the Islamic State group, and Kerry said that in combating the jihadist threat “there is a role for nearly every country to play, including Iran.”

This week, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed he had rejected a private approach from the United States suggesting cooperation on the battlefield.

US officials have not confirmed or denied making a request in private, but they do not regard Tehran as part of their coalition.

“ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. It has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way,” Kerry told the council.

“In the face of this sort of evil, we have only one option: to confront it with a holistic, global campaign that is committed and capable of degrading and destroying this terrorist threat.”

The council adopted a statement condemning the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and expressing support for the new government of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

In a statement released Friday, the State Department named 55 countries as partners in the international coalition against the Islamic State and as contributors in some form or another in the fight against the extremist group.

“The breadth and diversity of countries and organizations making contributions across one or more of the lines of effort demonstrate the global and unified nature of this fight,” read the statement.

ISIL, which has since renamed itself the Islamic State, now controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria after a summer offensive.

“Combating these terrorists in Iraq and preventing them from spreading evil is in everybody’s interest,” said Iraq’s new Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The meeting at UN headquarters in New York opened as France, which opposed the 2003 Iraq war, joined the United States in a campaign of airstrikes against the Islamist fighters.

“Taking action against Iraq in 2003 divided this council, but in the very different context of 2014, taking action in support of Iraq and against the Daesh terrorists is a duty for us all,” said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, using the Arabic term for the group.

A role for Iran

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht Ravanchi told the meeting that the international coalition shaping up to fight IS “has yet to pursue a serious strategy.”

Describing IS as a “despicable group,” Ravanchi said it “has grown out of the chaos created and the assistance provided to it in the past decade,” implicitly criticising the policies of the United States and its Gulf allies.

The deputy foreign minister called for cooperation with the Syrian regime in Damascus to confront the jihadists, saying that “any strategy that undermines these authorities including the Syrian government… will be a recipe for defeat.”

More than 50 countries have come forward with commitments as part of the anti-IS coalition including Egypt which has pledged to work closely with Kurdish and Iraqi forces, Kerry said.

“It is time to put an end to a group so extreme in its rejection of modernity that it bans math and social studies for children,” he said.

“It’s time to put an end to the sermons by extremists that brainwash young men to join these terrorist groups and commit mass atrocities in the name of God.”

The Security Council’s show of solidarity with Iraq set the stage for talks next week during the General Assembly meeting at the United Nations that will be dominated by the jihadist threat in Iraq and Syria.

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