WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama on Friday touted “slow and steady progress” in the fight against Islamic State militants as he committed to increase aid to Jordan, a key ally in the Arab coalition battling the extremists.
The president made the comments in an Oval Office meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan, one of five Arab nations that have participated in US-led airstrikes against the militants in Syria. Obama called Jordan a “rock solid partner” to defeat the Islamic State.
Obama said Jordan is a “small, resource-poor country that consistently steps up” to shoulder its international responsibility. He said he planned to ask Congress to nearly double US annual assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion.
“The Jordanian military has been working side by side with US and other militaries from around the world in making slow but steady progress, providing assistance to Baghdad, providing assistance to the moderate opposition inside of Syria and to begin culling back some of the gains that (IS) has made,” Obama said. “We recognize that it’s a long-term and extremely complex challenge, but it’s one that we feel optimistic that we’ll be able to succeed in.”
Speaking on the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and recent Arab-Jewish violence, Obama said: “The environment has not been conducive for the sort of peace initiatives that we’d like to see. But we are going to continue to share ideas, recognizing that ultimately what’s going to be good for the Israelis and the Palestinians is their capacity to live together side by side in peace and security and for Palestinians to have their own state.”
Earlier during an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Abdullah said the war against IS was “clearly a fight between good and evil.”
He added that he believed the IS threat was “a third world war by other means.”
“Nations in the Arab and Islamic world have to stand up and say, you know, ‘We’re against this,’ and explain to our people, ‘There’s a right and a wrong of this,'” Abdullah said. “People have to make a decision. This is our war. This is a war inside of Islam. So we have to own up to it. We have to take the lead. And we have to start fighting back.”
The king said that the Palestinian issue is still the core issue in the Middle East. “You know, whether it’s true or not, that argument is still being used by the extremists,” he told CBS. “And countries around the world realize that they have to solve the problem for their benefit.”
In his meeting with Obama Abdullah thanked the American people for supporting Jordan as he said the country is holding almost 1.5 million Syrian refugees. “It comes at a very difficult time,” Abdullah said.
Jordan’s UN envoy said Tuesday she will be trying to get the UN Security Council to agree on a resolution before the end of December that would press for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The push for Security Council action follows the failure of US-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians led by Secretary of State John Kerry, this summer’s 50-day war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, and the recent upsurge in violence sparked by disputes over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount complex that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.