News / Middle East

US Looking for Broader Coalition to Combat Islamic State

US Looking for Broader Coalition to Combat Islamic Statei
Scott Stearns
September 04, 2014 1:03 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is leading diplomatic efforts to build an international coalition against Islamic State militants responsible for killing civilians across Syria and Iraq. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what that coalition might look like.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is leading diplomatic efforts to build an international coalition against Islamic State militants responsible for killing civilians across Syria and Iraq.

Washington is working to push beyond airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq to a broader coalition against the Syria-based militants.

Speaking in Estonia on his way to a NATO summit in Wales, President Obama said a coalition to take on Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is complicated by the power vacuum in Syria.

"It is going to take time for us to be able to form the regional coalition that is going to be required so we can reach out to Sunni tribes in some of the areas that ISIS is occupying.  And to make sure that we have allies on the ground, in combination with the air strikes we have already conducted. So, the bottom line is this - our objective is clear and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so it is no longer a threat," said Obama.

Such a coalition will include partners contributing in a variety of ways, says analyst Nora Bensahel of the Center for a New American Security.

"The United States is working very hard right now to try to build a coalition of countries that has like-minded interests about ISIS, to try to strengthen diplomatic efforts against the group, potentially economic efforts, financial sanctions and other things, sharing of intelligence, I'm sure, and potentially even bringing some of those states into a coalition to conduct airstrikes," said Bensahel.

All of which, added she, must be coordinated with Iraqi forces confronting ISIS on the ground.

"Ultimately the only forces that are going to be able to roll back ISIS in any time frame are local forces, and that's why you're seeing efforts to train and advise. That's what the United States is doing," said Bensahel.

Those Iraqi forces will answer to a new government in Baghdad that is backed by Iran, which also opposes the Islamic State.

But Tehran and Washington sharing a common enemy could complicate a broader coalition, said former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

"We’re at an extremely delicate time throughout the region as the Iraqis struggle to form a government that needs to be inclusive enough that it will bring Sunnis back into the process….  I think any overt cooperation between Iran and the United States could create far more problems than it solves," said Crocker.

An active role for Iran also may unsettle Saudi Arabia and Egypt, both important members of a coalition against the Islamic State, says American University professor Akbar Ahmed, especially as Washington needs more than military might.

"The atrocious behavior, the beheadings, the treatment of minorities, the treatment of Christians and so on - this has to be effectively checked.  But if the United States thinks it can be checked simply by dropping a couple of bombs and using some missiles, I don't think that's going to happen," said Ahmed.

He added that the Obama administration must be careful not to make the same mistakes that he says the United States made in the war against Saddam Hussein, leading to disaffected Iraqi Sunni militants who helped found the Islamic State.

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Comment Sorting
by: alfredo ibarra barajas from: México
September 05, 2014 1:06 PM
This is all a legacy of Mr.Bush Jr. and his henchmen, who should be judged, for all the mess they left behind. It is high time for all those in the most powerful country on earth, who were the main causative agents of all the ills in Irak, to confront Justice, because that evil left behind, is now spreading to other countries. I remember that Mr. Bush Jr. called pompously to certain countries, in his muddled logic "The Axis of Evil".

As of today Mr. Obama is trying, using all his intelligence and sanity, to fix that mess, which looks pretty much unsolvable, while those who caused it are comfortably living, feeling immune from justice. Mr. Obama has done well, in my opinion, not to intervene in Syria, and he did well not to intervene in Libya, or only lightly, and I think, he should not intervene in Ukraine. That is a EU's problem, the problem of communism does not exist any longer, it is only a mirage; he should give them moral support, that is all. The sanctions that he has applied so far are going to dent Russia's economy sooner or later, because nowadays Russia is a capitalist country, and the sanctions hurt. But I think he should apply more.

This is a time for improbable alliances. I think China should not be only looking on the sidelines. China should get involved along with the USA, to try to isolate Russia, and not to try to profit from the mess in Ukraine, which is what Russia is doing by shifting its gas sales from Europe to Mongolia and China.

Mr. Obama should work more closely with his rich Arab allies, as his former predecessors, Mssrs Regan, Bush Sr. and Clinton did, maybe they have some ideas to contain IS. But Mr. Obama, a champion of peace and justice will not be here forever. Let us hope that the Democratic Party chooses well for the next elections, because this mess is going to take long to be fixed. Another Mr. Clinton perhaps? and let us hope that in the midterm elections, which are fast approaching, the American voters are not bamboozled by politicians trying to pass pyrite for gold, and vote well. Remember Mr. Clinton's famous phrase, "It is the economy ,stupid".

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