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Kerry to Assess Coalition Efforts to Fight Islamic State

  • Pamela Dockins

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling in Europe this week for talks with NATO foreign ministers and other officials on issues including terrorism, climate change and events in Ukraine. On Wednesday, Kerry will chair a ministerial-level meeting of the Counter-ISIL Coalition, a group that has been working to defeat Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

Kerry tells a Washington forum that Islamic State leaders assumed the world would be too intimidated to oppose them.

“Well, let us be clear - we are not intimidated. You are not intimidated," he said. "Our friends and partners are not intimidated. ISIL is very, very wrong.”

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes have been successful in ousting Islamic State militants from some positions in Iraq and Syria.

In Brussels, Kerry and more than 60 coalition partners will assess political efforts to degrade and defeat the militants, says State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

“It's an opportunity to take stock of where things stand," she said. "Obviously discuss what needs to happen from here. Provide updates on where countries stand.”

The group also should look at how Islamic State draws its followers, says diplomacy professor Cynthia Schneider.

“Let’s look at root causes, and I’d like to emphasize that is not so much ideology as it is poverty and lack of opportunity,” she said.

The coalition needs a clear plan with the Iraqis for how they are going to manage the fight against Islamic State inside their country, says conflict management professor Daniel Serwer.

“There has been precious little progress against ISIS in Iraq, and that seems to have to do largely with incapacity on the part of the Iraq security forces,” he said.

Serwer says Kerry should push for more help from Turkey to fight the militants in Syria.

“The right approach to this would be a deal between Turkey and the United States to create a protected and liberated area inside Syria,” he said.

But he says neither the U.S. nor Turkey seems ready to take the steps needed to achieve this goal.