Kerry urges Arab nations to support Obama's plan against Islamic State

US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed key Arab states on Thursday to support an expanded American military campaign against Islamic State jihadists.

hidden September 11, 2014 17:24:04 IST
Kerry urges Arab nations to support Obama's plan against Islamic State

Jeddah: US Secretary of State John Kerry pressed key Arab states on Thursday to support an expanded American military campaign against Islamic State jihadists including US air strikes in Syria.

Kerry urges Arab nations to support Obamas plan against Islamic State

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged Arab nations to support Obama's plan against IS. AFP

The top US diplomat arrived in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea port city of Jeddah and said "I'm confident" as he was greeted by the kingdom's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Kerry will hold talks with counterparts from 10 Arab nations and Turkey hours after US President Barack Obama outlined his new strategy to confront the jihadists in a prime-time television address.

Steeling his nation for another foreign conflict, Obama pledged to expand US military operations against IS, a radical Islamist group that has seized a swathe of Iraq and Syria and committed horrifying atrocities.

"Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy," Obama said, using an alternative acronym for the group.

"I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq."

Obama announced the dispatch of another 475 military personnel to help train Iraqi forces to take on the Islamic State, bringing the total number of US troops in the country to 1,600.

But he made clear in the 14-minute address that the campaign will not be a repeat of the exhausting ground wars fought by US troops in the past decade.

"I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan," Obama said, speaking on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11 attacks in 2001.

"It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil."

Washington is instead looking to empower partners on the ground like the Iraqi forces, Kurdish fighters and Syrian rebels, to fill in territory opened up by US air power.

Key to that strategy will be improving the effectiveness of Syrian rebels, and Obama called on Congress to swiftly authorise an operation to train and equip moderate Syrian fighters.

Kerry was to seek crucial backing for the US campaign in Jeddah, meeting with his counterparts from the oil-rich Gulf monarchies, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and NATO member Turkey.

"Many of the countries are already taking action against ISIL," a State Department official said.

"But the trip by the Secretary is going to broaden the coalition and bring it into more focus and intensify the lines of effort."

The official said Saudi Arabia would be especially important to the effort "because of their size and economic importance but also because of their religious significance with Sunnis."

The "train and equip programme" for Syria's rebels would be a particular talking point with the Saudis, the official added.

AFP

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