Airstrikes in Syria and Iraq are just the start
WASHINGTON (AP) — The onetwo-three punch of American and Arab airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq was just the beginning, President Barack Obama and other leaders declared Tuesday. They promised a sustained campaign showcasing a rare U.S.-Arab partnership aimed at Muslim extremists.
At the same time, in fresh evidence of how the terrorist threat continues to expand and mutate, the U.S. on its own struck a new al-Qaida cell that the Pentagon said was “nearing the execution phase” of a direct attack on the U.S. or Europe.
“This is not America’s fight alone,” Obama said of the military campaign against the Islamic State group. “We’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.”
Obama said the U.S. was “proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder” with Arab partners, and he called the roll: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar. Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, said four of the five had participated in the strikes, with Qatar playing a supporting role.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Turkey, too, is joining the coalition against the Islamic State group and “will be very engaged on the front lines of this effort.” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in New York for U.N. meetings, said he was considering expanding support of NATO operations against the Islamic State to include military involvement.
In all, Kerry said, more than 50 nations are allied in the fight.
It was a measure of the gravity of the threat and the complex politics of the problem that Syrian President Bashar Assad gave an indirect nod of approval to the airstrikes in his own country, saying he supported “any international anti-terrorism effort.” There has been concern among U.S. officials that any strikes against militants fighting Assad could be seen as inadvertently helping the leader whom Obama wants to see ousted from power.