Under U.S. Leadership, World Will Defeat ISIL

Posted by John Kerry
September 26, 2014
Secretary Kerry Discusses the Threat Posed by ISIL During a UN Security Council Meeting

The United States has has long faced threats from a lethal brand of terrorism that perverts one of the world’s great religions. We have been relentless in targeting Al Qaeda and its affiliates, but the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, now poses a profound and unique threat to the entire world.

What we are confronting is nothing less than a violent extremist enterprise. It has employed violence, intimidation, and genocidal brutality to impose its will across large swaths of Syria and Iraq. The Islamic State controls more territory than Al Qaeda ever has, which means it has access to money on an unprecedented scale to finance its mayhem.

With American leadership, the world is responding with a unity that shows these criminals that we will not allow them to divide us or force their nihilistic vision on helpless people, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or nationality. On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the gross abuses carried out by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

There is a vigorous international debate under way about what it means to destroy the Islamic State, about how effective and resilient the growing coalition will be, and about how the strategy will unfold in the coming months.

Here at home, I understand why Americans are weary about U.S. involvement in the volatile Middle East. People are right to ask tough questions, and we have a responsibility to answer them.

I am proud to work for a president who asks questions before using military force because, after all, I remember the words of the conservative Edmund Burke: “a conscientious man would be careful how he deals in blood.”

Let’s start by explaining what this fight is not. It is not a clash of civilizations. Muslim scholars are outraged about the Islamic State’s brutality and perversion of Islam, calling its savagery deviant and heretical. Sunni and Shiite alike have joined forces against this outrage. The coalition represents a unified response, as evidenced by the remarkable and unprecedented participation of five Arab countries in the air strikes in Syria. And that’s just the beginning. There is a role for every nation, from helping to dry up outside funding and stopping the flow of foreign fighters to taking direct military action and providing humanitarian assistance.

This is not the prelude to another U.S. ground war in the Middle East. President Obama has said repeatedly that U.S. ground troops will not engage in combat roles. He means it. I volunteered to serve and fought in a war I came to believe was a mistake. I take that lesson seriously. This will not be another one of those interventions.

Finally, this campaign is not about helping President Bashar Assad of Syria. We are not on the same side as Assad -- in fact, he is a magnet that has drawn foreign fighters from dozens of countries to Syria. As the president has said, Assad lost legitimacy a long time ago. We are embarking on an important effort to train and equip vetted members of Syria’s opposition who are fighting the Islamic State and the regime at the same time. By degrading the Islamic State and providing training and arms to the moderates, we will promote conditions that can lead to a negotiated settlement that ends this conflict.

So how do the United States and the more than 60 countries that have joined the effort so far succeed? Military action is a key component of the campaign. The Islamic State rules at the barrel of a gun and the blade of a knife, and that’s the only language its adherents seem to understand. But as the president said, America is not in this fight alone. Iraqi and Kurdish troops are fighting on the ground now, and over the months the moderates in Syria will become a more effective force as we provide training, equipment, and military advice.

But our strategy is broader. One important step is reducing the number of foreign fighters flocking to the black flag of the Islamic State. These foreigners, including many from the United States, pose an immediate danger on the battlefield and a longer-term threat if they are allowed to return to their home countries. So every country must detect and disrupt the recruitment by the Islamic State, because keeping fighters from making it to the war is more effective than taking them out after they arrive. And every country must increase its vigilance in monitoring those who return from the battlefield.

We must work to strangle the Islamic State’s funding. The Islamic State has reaped millions of dollars from its sales of pirated oil, extortion rackets, and illegal taxes on businesses in the territory it controls. Ending its taxes and extortion will require winning back territory, but the world can act now to dry up the black market for the oil the Islamic State is smuggling across parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. The illicit oil provides a large share of the Islamic State’s financing for its terror and there are forceful steps we can take to disrupt it.

The evil that the Islamic State represents is not something that Iraq or the region can take on alone. We face a common threat and it requires a common response. Acting together, with clear objectives and strong will, we can protect the innocent, contain the danger, and demonstrate that our ideals are more powerful than those who seek to impose their warped beliefs at the point of a gun. The Islamic State is odious, but it is far from omnipotent -- it will be defeated.

About the Author: John Kerry serves as U.S. Secretary of State.
Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared as an opinion piece in the Boston Globe.


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nams a.
September 26, 2014
I am a citizen of Iraq would ask to meet you in the situation in Iraq and what is happening from the killing and displacement, hunger and deprivation of the children want to solve the crisis and the ruins of the Iraqi people from Maziq
Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
September 29, 2014

Dear Mr. Secretary,

You and the folks @ State have done a pretty amazing job putting together a united global effort to deal with extremism on multiple levels, and I hope you've been able to catch up on your sleep and recharge after burning the diplomatic candle at both ends for weeks on end...I don't think the taxpayers pay you folks enough quite frankly...(grin). Just watching you chair a UNSC meeting for 4.5 hours on C-span was hard sir! To have to do the diplomatic thing and say "thank you" to the Russian, Iranian, and Syrian reps at that meeting for their remarks...well honestly I'm not sure this government could ever pay me enough to be willing to do that. I mean it's one thing to let folks have their say, but I'd have a real hard time thanking anyone for exhibiting such political stupidity as these three did without offering them an education in seeking "change we can live with" as a global community. But the President did a pretty good job of introducing the concept @ UNGA and just maybe folks are starting to wake up a bit to the alternative...only time will tell.

One thing I hope you'all have factored in that when you say this campaign is not in support of Assad, is that for the Syrian people this isn't provable at this point in time.
To put it bluntly you really can't prove that it isn't about supporting Assad until you've bombed him out of house and home, and he's homeless like the millions of people now homeless at his hands and Assad's ducking for cover in a hidy-hole.

Sir, you have an entire nation that is suffering in one form or another from PTSD...and there's nothing "post" about the trauma they are having inflicted upon them every day from both ISIL and Assad's regime.

If they be "two sides to the same coin" as such...It serves no logical appreciation of the human condition to bomb one side of that coin and negotiate with the other, while they both commit genocide on the same population. Taking this approach will inevitably alienate the Syrian people that this coalition is intending to support; because this isn't an intellectual or diplomatic process for them, it's a matter of survival on every level...down to the eating of grass to stay alive with no aid in sight, while barrel bombs rain down and ISIL cuts throats.

While folks help moderates find their political backbone of credibility in their effort to take their nation back by force in order to deliver change the Syrian people can live with, you gotta figure their credibility is tied to the Syrian people's knowing those who support them in this struggle are committed to getting rid of the regime in tangible "reach out and touch" ways that are visible, transparent, and undeniable....which generally speaking, negotiations never are.

If we are going to lead, we shouldn't be creating doubt in the minds of those we're trying to help, and it's not a matter of "casual sex" as someone described it. If you're going to make war or love, don't be doing it half way, or the result is that no one will get satisfaction.

If we can't get regional partners to put combat boots on the ground in Syria to fight side by side with the moderate "legitimate" reps of the Syrian people, to remove Assad from power and defeat ISIL, and no one else is including us...then I think folks can reasonably expect Assad to kill another quarter million people before the moderates ever come close to removing him by themselves and/or coming to some negotiated settlement in a resurrected Geneva process with a genocidal dictator that has already taken a quarter million lives while folks were trying to get negotiations to make change we all can live with, sans Assad.

Sir, there's a certain inescapable logic to the truth of these words, that only when Assad is homeless and on par with the rest of Syria's displaced will the international community be able to effectively "negotiate" among themselves and the Syrian people, the manner of Assad's complete transition from power from a position of strength, having won the confidence and thanks of the Syrian people in the process for ridding them of a two-legged weapon of mass destruction, while we cut ISIL's legs out from under them at the same time. It's a matter of building trust with the population that folks do intend to bring a halt to this insanity in favor of the kind of change that serves and protects people...; the Syrian people need to be convinced of this along with the Iraqi people and the millions of displaced among them.


EJ 9/29/14



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