SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)
As world leaders gather this week in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), U.S. President Barack Obama is stepping up his efforts to build a wide coalition to dismantle what he calls the ” network of death.”
In a much-anticipated address to the UNGA on Wednesday, Obama made a forceful case for a U.S.-led coalition to destroy extremist group Islamic State (IS), saying that the only language terrorists understand is “force.”
“There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil,” Obama told world leaders. “So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.”
Obama’s 40-minute address came just over a day after the United States and its allies launched an air campaign against IS targets in Syria, part of the president’s comprehensive strategy to ” degrade and ultimately destroy” the extremist group that has controlled large swaths of Syria and Iraq.
Speaking at the White House before leaving for New York on Tuesday, Obama emphasized that the air campaign had included five Arab countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain.
“The strength of this coalition makes clear to the world that this is not just America’s fight alone,” Obama said.
White House officials acknowledged that Obama’s coalition- building efforts are in the early stages, and that the president is seeking more commitments from allies and partners.
Meeting with leaders of Arab nations on Tuesday, Obama said, ” Because of the almost unprecedented effort of this coalition, I think we now have an opportunity to send a very clear message that the world is united.”
In his address on Wednesday, he reiterated his strategy to conduct air strikes to roll back IS while supporting Iraqi forces and Syrian rebels to reclaim their communities, adding that over 40 countries have offered to join the coalition against IS.
“In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands,” Obama said. “Today, I ask the world to join in this effort.”
In an extraordinary step later in the day, Obama personally chaired a UN Security Council meeting focused on the threat posed by militant fighters joining foreign conflicts.
It is the second time that a sitting U.S. president has chaired the panel. The first was Obama himself in 2009, his first year in the White House.
The 15-member UN Security Council later unanimously adopted a Washington-proposed binding resolution requiring all states to ” prevent and suppress” the recruitment and travel of militant fighters to foreign conflicts.
“I’m here today to say that all of you who are committed to this urgent work will find a strong and steady partner in the United States of America,” Obama said.
Preventing foreign fighters from reaching Syria and then slipping back across U.S. borders is a critical element of the strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy IS, he said.
The battlefield in Syria and Iraq has become a magnet for aspiring jihadists from around the world.
U.S. officials estimated that that about 15,000 foreign fighters from more than 80 countries may have joined the IS, and at least 2,000 Westerners are fighting with different groups in Iraq and Syria. At least 100 U.S. citizens have joined various rebel groups in Iraq and Syria, including a dozen fighting with IS.
Western countries worry that war-hardened U.S. and European extremists could carry out terrorist plots on their own soil after leaving the battlefield.
“We are particularly concerned about the Westerners and even the small number of Americans who have crossed the border, gone to fight with IS and have a Western passport,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a press briefing a week ago.
“The threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters cannot be resolved by the United States, or any ally, working alone,” said Chris Chivvi, senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation think tank.
“The road ahead will be hard, but it’s best to begin now with action by the UN Security Council,” Chivvi added.