Syria backs fight against ISIS, Moallem tells UN


SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – UNITED NATIONS: Syria stands with a worldwide effort to combat ISIS, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday as U.S. President Barack Obama admitted U.S. and Arab airstrikes in Syria targeting the militants were benefitting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Moallem’s statement to the U.N. appeared to give tacit approval of U.S. and Arab airstrikes in Syria targeting the militants.

“The Syrian Arab Republic reiterates that it stands with any international effort aimed at fighting and combating terrorism, and stresses that this must be done in full respect of the lives of innocent civilians and within the frame of full respect of national sovereignty, and in conformity with international conventions,” Moallem told the United Nations General Assembly.

But Moallem warned that taking military action while some countries continue to support the militants could create a situation from which “the international community will not exit in decades.”

“Let us together stop this ideology and its exporters, let us simultaneously exert pressure on the countries that joined the coalition led by the United States to stop their support of armed terrorist groups,” Moallem said. “Only then combating terrorism militarily becomes viable.”

Speaking late Sunday, Obama acknowledged that U.S. intelligence underestimated the rise of ISIS and overestimated the ability and will of Iraq’s army to fight such extremists.

Obama described the U.S. intelligence assessments in response to a question during a CBS “60 Minutes” interview in which he also conceded that the U.S.-led military campaign against that group and an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria was helping Assad, a man the U.N. has accused of war crimes.

But Obama said he had no choice but to order U.S. airstrikes on Assad’s enemies, the ISIS and the Khorasan Group because, he said, “those folks could kill Americans.”

He noted that his director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has acknowledged that the U.S. “underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.” Obama also said it was “absolutely true” that the U.S. overestimated the ability and will of the Iraqi army.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday that the president was not seeking to pin blame on the intelligence community and said the commander in chief “is the one that is ultimately responsible for protecting the national security interests of the United States of America.”

On the fact that the U.S.-led military campaign had worked to Assad’s benefit, Obama said, “I recognize the contradiction,” but added: “We are not going to stabilize Syria under the rule of Assad,” whose government has committed “terrible atrocities.”

U.S. warplanes attacked ISIS targets in Syria overnight Sunday, in raids that a group monitoring the war said killed civilians as well as jihadist fighters.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit mills and grain storage areas in the northern Syrian town of Manbij, in an area controlled by ISIS, killing at least two civilian workers.

Strikes on a building on a road leading out of the town also killed a number of ISIS fighters, according to Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Observatory.

The U.S. military said Monday an American airstrike overnight targeted ISIS vehicles in a staging area adjacent to a grain storage facility near Manbij, but it had no evidence so far of civilian casualties.

Elsewhere, ISIS fighters closed in to within only a few kilometres of a key Kurdish town on Syria’s border with Turkey.

Turkey deployed tanks to reinforce its side of the border and said parliament would this week debate joining the coalition against ISIS.

ISIS managed to advance within 5 kilometers of the strategic Syrian town of Ain al-Arab, known as Kobane to the Kurds, a monitor said.It was the closest the militants had come to the town since they began advancing toward it nearly two weeks ago, sending tens of thousands of mostly Kurdish refugees across the border, the Observatory said.

As they advanced, the jihadists fired at least 15 rockets at the town center, killing at least one person. Other rockets hit the border zone.

Across the frontier, Turkey’s army was seen deploying tanks and armored vehicles to the town of Mursitpinar, after stray bullets hit Turkish villages and at least three mortar shells crashed nearby.

Turkey refused to join the coalition while dozens of its citizens, including diplomats and children, were being held by ISIS after being abducted in Iraq.

After they were freed, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey’s position had changed, signaling a more robust stance toward the group.

“We will hold discussions with our relevant institutions this week. We will definitely be where we need to be,” Erdogan said Sunday. “We cannot stay out of this.”

Source: (Lebanon) The Daily Star

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