The President: We Will Degrade, and Ultimately Destroy, ISIL
[icopyright one button toolbar]
In a high-stakes prime-time address to the nation from the State Floor of the White House tonight, President Obama described the threat posed by the Islamic State terrorist group and laid out his much-awaited strategy for “degrading and ultimately destroying” ISIL.
Predictably, it is a strategy that some will applaud, but many more will attack as being either too much or not enough to combat the ISIL threat.
Even before his address there was a flurry of activity by both supporters and critics of the president to weigh in on any decisions that are made:
Senate Democratic leaders were preparing legislation to authorize the U.S. military to train Syrian rebels to help battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and House Republicans postponed a vote scheduled for Thursday on a short-term spending bill in order to consider Obama’s request to include funds to confront the ISILS threat.
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid signaled Wednesday that he supports fulfilling Obama’s request. “It’s clear to me that we need to train and equip Syrian rebels and other groups in the Middle East that need some help,” he said, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she would support the move only if rebel fighters were trained “out of country” and not in Syria, according to the Washington Post.
Republican leaders offered cautious support while continuing to accuse the President of, for too long, ignoring the ISIS and other Middle East threats and problems.
Earlier today, the White House announced that it was providing $25 million in immediate military assistance to the Iraqi government as part of efforts to combat ISIS.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry spent Wednesday in Baghdad meeting with Iraq’s new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to solidify support in the fight against ISIL, on his way to other Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, for the same purpose.
President Obama has been busy himself asking for and receiving support and commitments to implement his strategy from foreign leaders, both personally in meetings at the NATO summit in Wales and working the phones such as just today with Saudi King Abdullah, in between meetings with his top national security advisers, Defense Secretary Hagel, Susan Rice, CIA Director John Brennan and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey.
(Tonight, the New York Times reports, “Saudi Arabia has indicated that it would agree to an American request to provide bases to train moderate Syrian opposition fighters”)
Finally, The American people also expressed their opinions and concerns even before the president’s speech as reflected in a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday that shows “71 percent of Americans support airstrikes in Iraq, up from 54 percent just three weeks ago. And 65 percent say they support extending airstrikes into Syria.”
Tonight in his address to the nation, President Obama outlined the strategy to meet his objective “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL”
The President first listed how America has taken the fight to terrorists during recent years, but emphasized how “we continue to face a terrorist threat. We cannot erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.”
Citing ISIL as being one of the greatest terrorist threats, the President said “Now let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not ‘Islamic’…and “certainly not a state.”
Citing ISIL’s brutality and barbarism, the President noted the threat ISIL poses not only to the people of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East – including American citizens, personnel and facilities — but “If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region – including to the United States.”
To meet that threat, the President listed recent actions that have been taken against ISIS including more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq to protect American personnel and facilities, kill ISIL fighters, destroy weapons, and give space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory. “These strikes have helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children,” the President added.
Saying, “This is not our fight alone,” he emphasized, “we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.”
“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” he said and listed the four elements of his strategy to “degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL.” :
First, through a systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL, working with the Iraqi government and making it clear that the U.S. “will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are,” the President said that he “will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq,” and added “this is a core principle of my presidency: if you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”
Second, the U.S. will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground by sending an additional 475 service members to Iraq. The President added, “As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission – we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.”
He called on Congress to give him additional authorities and resources to train and equip fighters in Syria. “In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its people; a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost. Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.”
Third, the U.S. will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks. “Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into – and out of – the Middle East.” The President also said that in two weeks, he will chair a meeting of the UN Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.
Fourth, The U.S. will continue providing humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization. This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities. “We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands,” the President said.
The President noted that in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners. “Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi Security Forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid…” he said.
As to working with Congress, the President said, “My Administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home. I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL. But I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.”
Acknowledging the risks involved in any military action to our servicemen and women, the President said he wanted the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said “It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.”
Recalling tomorrow’s 13th anniversary since our country was attacked and the marking of 6 years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression, he said, “Yet despite these shocks; through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back – America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth,” and concluded:
America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia – from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East – we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform – pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and service-members who support our partners on the ground.
When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said. “We owe our American friends our lives. Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”
That is the difference we make in the world. And our own safety – our own security – depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation, and uphold the values that we stand for – timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.
May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.
Lead photo President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with members of the National Security Council in the Situation Room of the White House. September 10, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)