15 Sep 2014

World leaders back Iraq in fight against IS

World leaders back military measures to help defeat Islamic State fighters in Iraq – but make no mention of the tougher diplomatic challenge in Syria.

Paris hosted an international summit on Monday, attended by the five UN Security Council permanent members, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, European and Arab states, and representatives of the EU, Arab League and United Nations. All pledged to help the government in Baghdad fight against IS militants.

But a statement after Monday’s conference made no mention at all of Syria – the other country where IS fighters hold a wide swathe of territory. Iraq attended Monday’s meeting but Syria did not, nor did its main regional ally, Iran.

‘Anti-IS coalition’

US President Barack Obama pledged last week to establish a coalition to defeat Islamic State fighters in both Iraq and Syria, plunging the United States into two separate civil wars in which nearly every country in the Middle East has a stake.

“All participants underscored the urgent need to remove Daesh (IS) from the regions in which it has established itself in Iraq,” said a statement after Monday’s talks. To that end, they committed to supporting the new Iraqi government in its fight against Daesh, by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance….” it said.

Islamic State’s doctrine is either you support us or kill us. It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes. Iraq’s Fouad Massoum

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said French aircraft would begin reconnaissance flights over Iraq. A French official said two Rafale fighter jets and a refueling aircraft had taken off on Monday for Iraq. Iraqi President Fouad Massoum told Monday’s conference he hoped the Paris meeting would bring a “quick response”.

“Islamic State’s doctrine is either you support us or kill us. It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification,” he told delegates.

Monday’s conference was an important vote of confidence for the new Iraqi government, formed last week, led by a member of Iraq’s Shia majority, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and also including minority Sunnis and Kurds in important jobs.

Earlier, French President Francois Hollande had called for a global reponse to counter Islamic State (IS) militants, saying the group poses a security threat worldwide.

“It is global so the response must be global… Iraq’s fight against the terrorists is also our fight. We must commit ourselves together – that is the purpose of this conference,” said Mr Hollande.

British hostages

Mr Obama’s plans would involve stronger military action in Iraq and extend the ampaign across the frontier to Syria. Secretary of State John Kerry has said he believes he can forge a solid alliance despite hesitancy among some partners and questions over the legality of action.

US officials said several Arab countries have offered to join the United States in air strikes against IS targets, but declined to say which countries made the offers.

Britain, Washington’s main ally when it invaded Iraq in 2003, has yet to confirm it will take part in air strikes, despite the killing of British aid worker David Haines by Islamic State fighters this past week.

Another British hostage – former cab driver Alan Henning, who was snatched after travelling to Syria as part of an aid convoy – was named in the video as the next in line to be killed.