The Washington Post reports: The Obama administration accelerated efforts Friday to build an international coalition to combat the Islamic State, winning pledges of support from nine allies but leaving questions about the extent of possible expanded military force.
The United States has waged a series of airstrikes seeking to slow the advance of the Islamic State in northern Iraq and bolster the defenses of Western-allied fighters in the Iraq’s nearby Kurdish region.
But Washington is now eager to broaden the military and diplomatic pressures on the group, which has drawn international condemnation for sending non-Muslim minorities fleeing in fear and waging bloodshed such as mass killings and the beheadings of two American journalists.
The 10-nation alliance, forged at a NATO summit in Wales, could raise worries about deepening Western military engagement in the region nearly three years after the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel used the NATO forum to hold meetings with foreign and defense ministers from nine countries: Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark.
The leaders described themselves as the core of an emerging coalition to counter the Islamic State, although they downplayed the prospect of imminent joint military action. They also left unsaid whether they were planning to attack Islamic State’s strongholds in Syria or limit their mission to Iraq. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times adds this tough-talk from Kerry: “There is no containment policy for ISIL,” Secretary of State John Kerry said at the beginning of the meeting, using an alternate acronym for ISIS. “They’re an ambitious, avowed, genocidal, territorial-grabbing, caliphate-desiring quasi state with an irregular army, and leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us.”
So even though the text of the statement issued by the State Department makes no mention of attacking ISIS in Syria, that’s part of the plan — right?
When the U.S. claimed success in rescuing thousands of Yazidis trapped on Mount Sinjar, it was YPG fighters on the ground who played the crucial role in creating a safe corridor.
In building its international coalition to fight ISIS, the U.S. will naturally want the support of as many allies as possible, yet what could be the most productive alliance of all — with the PKK — will remain hamstrung unless Washington grows up and ditches its childish anti-terrorism fundamentalism and quickly de-lists the PKK as a so-called terrorist organization.
Not only is this particular designation unwarranted — as Henri Barkey points out, the U.S. should be willing to talk to the PKK when the PKK’s chief adversary, Turkey, is already doing so — but the whole idea of designating organizations and individuals as terrorists is itself an insult to the rule of law. Such labeling functions as a political tool used without much more subtlety than the Catholic church’s practice of branding heretics at the time of the inquisition. Democracy, however, only allows for the designation of illegal actions — not illegal opinions or affiliations.
The necessity of fighting ISIS has arisen not because it promotes a diabolical ideology; it derives from the fact that the members of ISIS are engaging in genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.