Thursday, September 25, 2014

Obama Presses World to Act Against Islamic Jihad

At WSJ, "U.S. Presses World to Act Against Extremism: Obama Implores Leaders to Join Coalition Against Islamic State":

UNITED NATIONS—The U.S. unleashed a barrage of diplomatic pressure on world leaders gathered in New York, imploring them to join an international coalition against Islamic extremism.

President Barack Obama, in a series of appearances throughout the day, outlined a very different U.S. approach to the Middle East than he did last year at the same forum—one that leans heavily on American military power and tightly focuses on ways to diminish Islamic extremism. He urged leaders in the region to do more to combat what he described as the most pressing threat to global progress.

In his sixth address to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Obama said "the cancer of violent extremism" embodied in groups such as Islamic State now dominates his foreign-policy agenda.

"The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force," Mr. Obama said. "So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death."

While leaders met at the U.N., the Pentagon said U.S. and Arab warplanes carried out a new wave of strikes on extremist group Islamic State in Syria, emphasizing regional support for the latest expansion of the air campaign against the group. Heads of state recoiled at a new extremist video showing the beheading of a French hostage.

Despite the U.S. appeals, the scope and longevity of his coalition to fight Islamic State remained unclear.

Major European allies—France, the U.K. and Germany, so far all have declined to send their aircraft into Syrian airspace, in part, because of the lack of U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of such force.

In Paris, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls reiterated the government's refusal. Instead, the French premier bemoaned how world powers had missed the opportunity to deploy air power over Syria in the wake of the alleged chemical attacks last year—when France believed there was a clear legal basis for intervention.

"We wouldn't be in this situation in Syria if the international community had intervened," Mr. Valls said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is still smarting from the defeat he suffered last year when Parliament opposed his plans to join the U.S. in the airstrikes that Mr. Obama eventually called off. Although Mr. Cameron has the authority to launch military action unilaterally, lawmakers say the Syria experience makes it important for the U.K. leader to secure parliamentary approval before taking military action in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Mr. Cameron's government said Parliament would meet on Friday to debate a request from the Iraqi government for airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq, but not Syria.

In his General Assembly speech Wednesday night, Mr. Cameron backed a U.K. military response in advance of the Friday vote, but left open whether it would entail a combat role against Islamic State militants.

"We should be uncompromising, using all the means at our disposal—including military force—to hunt down these extremists," Mr. Cameron said in his address, while adding in anticipation of criticism that the West should avoid the mistakes of the past in Iraq.

The president heralded the inclusion of five Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, in the airstrikes in Syria this week. And the U.S. welcomed commitments by Belgium and the Netherlands to each deploy fighter jets for military operations.

However, a number of Washington's closest Mideast allies—particularly Turkey and Qatar—appeared to be on the fence in terms of how significantly to support the U.S. campaign, though four Qatari planes provided surveillance for coalition attacks on Islamic State Monday.