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Kerry: Anti-IS Coalition Could Contribute to Broader Mideast Peace

Kerry: Anti-IS Coalition Could Contribute to Broader Mideast Peace
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says international cooperation in the fight against Islamic State militants could contribute to broader Middle East peace. Kerry says the Obama administration is committed to better arming and training Syria’s moderate opposition in that fight.

The fight against Islamic State militants in both Syria and Iraq is part of a broader battle for the future of the Middle East and security in Europe and the United States, a battle that Secretary Kerry says crosses ideologies and religions.

“From the Sahel to the Maghreb, from Yemen to Syria, we are seeing an epic struggle take place in which dividers and destroyers are working overtime to drown out problem-solvers, healers, builders. And where, in too many places, violent extremists are pursuing agendas of hate,” he said.

Kerry says the breadth of forces allied against Islamic State fighters shows encouraging signs for broader reconciliation in the Middle East.

“The historic level of cooperation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces has resonated deeply in both communities," he said. "And the presence of Saudis and Emiratis and Jordanians and Qataris and others, all of them together facing this challenge now, is the sign of a new set of possibilities for regional engagement in security and counter-terrorism and anti-extremism that may open new windows for all of us, including Israel, Palestinians.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari says Islamic State fighters could be defeated by 2016, in part, as a result of improving relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as well as coalition airstrikes in both Syria and Iraq.

"When the base of terrorism is raised in one country, the response and support comes from terrorist cells in a second country," he said. "So, it is good that the international coalition has directed strikes on the terrorist enclaves in Iraq and, at the same time, is directing strikes against terrorism enclaves in Syria."

Syria’s moderate opposition is under attack from both Islamic State fighters and government troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kerry says the United States is actively boosting its support for those rebels.

“When it comes to their future, Syrians should not have to choose between a tyrant and the terrorists," he said. "Those are both dead ends. And that is why we favor a third option - the moderate Syrian opposition who are fighting both extremists and Assad every day.”

Kerry says a meeting of the anti-Islamic State coalition in Europe last week resolved to keep up the fight, building on what he says has been “significant progress” over the last two-and-a-half months in disrupting militant financing, resupply and command-and-control operations.