23 Sep 2014

US seeks ‘bandwidth’ to deal with IS, Ebola and the Ukraine crisis

After his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry (pictured below)┬áin New York, ahead of this week’s UN General Assembly, Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, chose the term “bandwidth” to describe the capacity world leaders need to deal with the current panoply of problems.

The global leadership’s bandwidth is crackling with crises: Russia/Ukraine, Ebola and Isis.

The US president is due to address the assembly first thing Wednesday morning, but in the afternoon chairs a special meeting of the security council, hoping to achieve a binding resolution that requires states to criminalise their citizens who join terror groups, as well as those who raise funds for them.

John Kerry Chairs UN Security Council Meeting On Iraq

Already there have been questions as to how such a resolution could be monitored, and/or enforced, but that is perhaps missing the point. If the resolution is passed, it provides a shared goal, a platform for pushing back against the Islamic State. And it’s evidence of the “leadership” the US has declared, delivered by the president himself.

There are murkier stories here. What of Turkey? What did President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agree with Islamic State to ensure the release of 46 Turkish citizens?

Asked Monday whether he now expected a more active role from Turkey in the fight against Islamic State, John Kerry replied: “They are committed to deal with this. But they first needed to deal with their hostage situation. Now the proof will be in the pudding, as I said, and we will work with them very closely in the days ahead.” Which is a kind of a watch this space.

At the weekend, the US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, predicted that the US “will not do the air strikes alone, if the president decides to do the air strikes”. So all eyes on Britain as to whether it’s inclined to go further than the French and commit to an air campaign against the Islamic State inside Syria, (last week French fighter jets targeted an alleged Islamic State site inside Iraq).

The prime minister, David Cameron, is due to speak Wednesday evening, after the foreign fighters debate in the security council. With the anti-Islamic State focus on organising the coalition and planning the road ahead, there’ll be pressure on Mr Cameron to detail what that road looks like for the UK.

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