U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry have been working at the ongoing NATO summit to create a “core coalition” of 10 nations to “destroy” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but such talks did not include military options. Lobbying the various nations at the ongoing North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting in Newport, Wales, the two hope to have a plan crafted and international support pledged before the United Nations General Assembly meets later this month.
In a joint statement, Kerry and Hagel said that “There is no time to waste … to degrade and, ultimately, to destroy the threat posed by the Islamic State.” Kerry conceded that many countries would demur at the prospect of engaging in direct military strikes or other offensive tactics against ISIS but could instead provide equipment, intelligence or weapons.
In a private meeting at the NATO summit with ministers from France, UK, Italy, Germany, Australia, Canada, Turkey, Denmark and Poland, Kerry limited his remarks to the presence of ISIS in Iraq but indicated that there were obvious “implications about Syria in this.” The U.S. has launched airstrikes against ISIS inside the vast swath of territory it has quickly taken under its control in Iraq. No such attacks have taken place inside Syria and some inside that country have been critical of the U.S. for not taking similar actions against ISIS there.
Talk in the NATO summit meeting, however, was limited to generating international condemnation of ISIS and has not (thus far at least) included plans for military action. Further to the point, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), David Cameron, was clear about ruling out the prospect of immediate air strikes against ISIS and any Western actions that leave “others in the region to pick up the pieces.” What is now required, he said, was ground action from the new Iraqi government, the Kurds, and nearby states. He said that his nation is currently delivering humanitarian aid inside Iraq, arming the Kurds and assisting the Iraqi government.
Also at the NATO summit meeting, Canada declared its intent to participate, promising to deploy military officials to advise the Iraqi government. That country’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, said in a statement that the “fanaticism” of ISIS “is a real threat to regional security and millions of innocent people in Iraq, Syria and beyond.”
For its part, Germany has already dispatched an airplane carrying military supplies to Iraq. To be delivered are mine search devices, protective vests, communications equipment and night vision telescopes.
The leader of ISIS and self-declared caliph of the Islamic state that it is stopping at nothing to attain is an Iraq native who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He reportedly holds three Islamic studies degrees from what is now named Iraqi University in Baghdad. Reports suggest he was a cleric at a mosque in Samarra during the Western invasion of Iraq in 2003. His wife is an activist from Syria, Saja al-Duleimi. He comes from a religious family and his siblings and uncles include preachers and teachers in eloquence, Arabic and logic.
Although the formal NATO talks aimed at the formation of a coalition of nations against ISIS includes words such as “degrade” and “destroy,” they have not yet included discussion of military incursion. Events occur swiftly during war, however, and this could change very quickly.
By Gregory Baskin