WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama said yesterday he would send his Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East to build support in the region against Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
“I’m encouraged so far that countries in the region, countries that don’t always agree on many things, increasingly recognise the primacy of the threat that IS poses to all of them. And I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition needed to meet this threat,” Obama told at a news conference.
The US is intensifying its push to build an international campaign against IS jihadist fighters in Iraq and Syria, including recruiting partners for potential joint military action, officials said.
“We are going to work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region,” Obama told reporters yesterday. “And we’re going to cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy.” It was unclear how many nations will sign up. Britain and Australia are potential candidates, US officials said. The US, the officials said, could act alone if necessary against the militants, who have seized a third each of Iraq and Syria, declared open war against the West and want to establish a hub of jihadism in the heart of the Arab world.
Obama also said he has asked officials to prepare a range of US military options for confronting IS militants in Syria but said his strategy is being developed. He cautioned against speculation that he was on the brink of a decision to expand air strikes against IS beyond targets being hit in Iraq.