Kerry upbeat on winning anti-IS support
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA
UNITED States Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday pressed key Arab states to support an expanded American military campaign against Islamic State (IS) jihadists, including US air strikes in Syria.
He arrived in Jeddah and said "I'm confident" as he was greeted by Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Saud al-Faisal.
Mr Kerry was expected to hold talks with counterparts from 10 Arab nations and Turkey, hours after US President Barack Obama outlined his new strategy to confront IS in a prime-time TV address.
Steeling his nation for another foreign conflict, Mr Obama pledged to expand US military operations against the radical Islamist group that has seized a swathe of Iraq and Syria, and committed horrifying atrocities.
"Our objective is clear: We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, Isil through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy," Mr Obama said, using an alternative acronym for the group.
"I will not hesitate to take action against Isil in Syria, as well as Iraq."
He announced the dispatch of another 475 soldiers to help train Iraqi forces to take on IS, taking the total number of US troops in the country to 1,600.
But he made clear that the campaign will not be a repeat of the exhausting ground wars fought by US troops in the past decade, saying: "I want the American people to understand...it will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil."
The White House said it will target the group's "leadership, logistical and operational capability", and attempt to "deny it sanctuary and resources to plan, prepare and execute attacks".
In a strong measure of support, Saudi Arabia has agreed to host training camps for moderate Syrian rebels who are part of Mr Obama's broad strategy to combat the IS militants.
Outlining what Mr Kerry would seek from regional partners, a senior State Department official said: "We may need enhanced basing and overflights." Wider overflight permission from regional states would increase the capacity of US aircraft to attack anti-aircraft weaponry operated by IS in Iraq and Syria.
Other initiatives which the US seeks support on include efforts to stop the flow of money to IS by tackling oil smuggling and cracking down on contributions from private donors.
Another option is to use regional TV news outlets, specifically Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, to air anti-extremist messages.