Reuters: Kerry presses Arabs to back campaign against Islamic State

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SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Arab leaders on Thursday to support President Barack Obama’s plans for a new military campaign against Islamic State militants including help with greater overflight rights for U.S. warplanes.

U.S. officials have cast the campaign against Islamic State as a global fight against Islamist radicals and the threat they pose beyond Syria and Iraq, particularly through foreign fighters drawn from nearly all points of the planet.

While Washington has not identified specific threats within the United States, U.S. officials say they believe its fighters could return to home countries and carry out attacks. The beheading of two captive American journalists in the past month has also enraged many Americans who want Obama to retaliate.

In a strong measure of support, Saudi Arabia has agreed to host training camps for moderate Syrian rebels who are part of Obama’s broad strategy to combat the militants, who have taken over a third of both Syria and Iraq, U.S. officials said.

The agreement, outlined by Obama’s aides on the night of his speech laying out his expanded campaign against the Islamist group, appeared to reflect the depth of Saudi concern about Islamic State’s threat to the region.

Detailing what Kerry would seek from regional partners at a meeting of Arab powers and Turkey in Jeddah, a senior State Department official said: “We may need enhanced basing and overflights … there’s going to be a meeting soon of defense ministers to work on these details.”

Wider overflight permission from regional states would increase the capacity of U.S. aircraft to attack anti-aircraft weaponry operated by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and if deemed necessary impose a no-fly zone.

Saudi Arabia, the richest Sunni Arab country, this year outlawed Islamic State as an extremist organization, but it is worried that the focus on the group will distract from what it sees as a bigger regional threat stemming from Shi’ite Iran.

 

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