Obama says America will not tolerate threats from Isis

United States President Barack Obama vowed to continue the fight against Islamic State fighters and pledged to build more international support. (Reuters)

United States President Barack Obama vowed to continue the fight against Islamic State fighters and pledged to build more international support. (Reuters)

The United States (US) and Arab allies began a full air attack on Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) in Syria on Tuesday.

“Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people,” US President Barack Obama said before leaving the White House on Tuesday for the United Nations (UN) in New York.

Obama said the strength of the coalition, now at more than 40 countries, including five Arab states that took part in Tuesday’s air campaign, shows the fight against such militants is not America’s alone.

“America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security,” he said. “The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this not America’s fight alone.”

Obama also said he would meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and “friends and allies” at the UN to continue building support for the coalition.

“The overall effort will take time. There will be challenges ahead but we’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group,” Obama said, adding that the campaign is in line with the strategy he outlined earlier this month to combat Isis. 

The air campaign opens a new front against militants by joining Syria’s 3-year-old civil war. Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates participated in or supported the strikes against Islamic State targets.

US officials have said persistent strikes will continue, although the pace and timing will vary.  In a letter to Congress, Obama said it was not possible to know the duration of the operations in Syria against Isis.

Isis has vowed revenge in the wake of the strikes. 

Syria backs attacks on IS
On Tuesday Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said that Damascus backed any international effort against “terrorism”, state media reported.

“Syria will continue to resolutely fight the war it has been prosecuting for years against… terrorism,” state news agency SANA quoted him as saying.

Kurds urged to go all-out against Isis
The jailed leader of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) urged Kurds to join “all-out resistance” against Isis militants advancing on Kurdish areas in northern Syria, the pro-Kurdish Firat agency reported Tuesday.

Isis have closed in on the strategic Syrian town of Ain al-Arab near the Turkish border, called Kobani in Kurdish, and have seized dozens of villages in the past week, prompting an exodus of refugees into Turkey.

“I call on all Kurdish people to start all-out resistance against this high-intensity war,” Abdullah Ocalan said in a message relayed by his lawyer Mazlum Dinc, who visited him on his island prison in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul.

“All our people should shape their lives in line with the war going on in Kurdistan at the moment,” Ocalan said in his first comments on the current crisis.

Ocalan urged all Kurds – who have no state of their own and are spread between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran – to join the fight.  

The standoff over Kobane and the influx of over 130 000 Kurdish refugees into Turkey in a few days has added a new element of complexity to efforts to end the 30-year conflict between the Turkish authorities and the PKK, which wants self rule for Turkey’s Kurds.

It also coincided with the release of dozens of Turks held hostage by Isis – reportedly after secret talks with the jihadists ended in a swap of captives.

Ocalan accused the Turkish government of dragging its feet in restarting the peace talks when he was ready to “take every step possible” for a democratic solution. 

“The Turkish state made the public know that it had openly negotiated with the IS, while it failed to start the peace talks” with the Kurds, Ocalan charged.

The PKK’s military chief Murat Karayilan, who leads the armed rebels at their Kandil Mountain base in northern Iraq, went even further, saying that the peace process has “ended” and accusing Turkey of collaborating with Isis.  “The peace process in the north (Turkey) has ended with the Kobane assault. But Ocalan has the final say,” Karayilan was quoted as saying by the Firat news agency.

It also urged air strikes on Islamic State fighters attacking the town of Kobani.

Redur Xelil, speaking to Reuters via the Internet, said the redeployment of Islamic State fighters could put more pressure on the Kurdish fighters defending Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, from an Islamic State offensive that has already forced more than 130 000 Syrian Kurds to flee to Turkey. – Reuters, AFP

 

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