An international strategy develops
WASHINGTON – An influential House Republican called on the Obama administration Friday to assemble a coalition of nations to defeat an Islamic militant organization that has claimed credit for beheading two U.S. journalists.
“They need to do what Bush 41 did and get a coalition of nations together,” Representative Frank Wolf of Virginia told Aleteia.org in a telephone interview Friday. President George H.W. Bush assembled a coalition of 34 nations that ousted Iraqi forces under Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in February 1991. “They have to make sure they’re not taking over,” Wolf, a longtime leader in human rights issues, said of ISIS or ISIL.
Wolf’s comments came the same day the Obama administration announced it had formed a group of countries to counter the growing threat that ISIS poses in the Middle East. According to The New York Times, the coalition would include Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada, Turkey, Poland, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the coalition would work not to contain ISIS but eliminate it, the Times reported. He called the Islamist outfit “an ambitious, avowed, genocidal, territorial grabbing, caliphate-desiring quasi state with an irregular army and leaving them in some capacity anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us.”
Pope Francis, too, has endorsed the concept of using a coalition to “stop” ISIS. On August 18, the Pontiff said “(o)ne nation alone cannot judge the best means for stopping groups like ISIS,” according to CNN.
The comments from Wolf, the administration, and Pope Francis reflect a growing belief that the West and key Middle-Eastern partners must band together to repulse the Islamists.
ISIS swept into the northern and central parts of Iraq in June. The group claimed a major victory in July when it conquered the city of Fallujah, where U.S.-led coalition forces battled Iraqi insurgents in bloody house-to-house fighting in November and December of 2004. It attracted more media attention after it posted videos last month in which a hooded man in black used a sword to behead journalists James Foley and later, Steven Sotloff.
Despite the growing chorus of support for a coalition to thwart the Islamist threat, key differences remain between Rome and Washington. Pope Francis declined to endorse the means by which foreign nations would oppose ISIS. “I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war. I say stop by some means,” he said pointedly.
By contrast, the administration and leading members of Congress are united in support for using military airstrikes to defeat ISIS. Wolf said he will file a bill Monday that would give the president congressional authorization to strike ISIS and related groups, such as al Qaeda. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, has said he will introduce a similar measure when lawmakers return to the Capitol next week.
Vice-President Joseph Biden too has vowed the United States would strike back at ISIS after the recent videos of the beheadings. “As a nation, we’re united. And when people harm Americans, we don’t retreat, we don’t forget. We take care of those who are grieving and when that’s finished, they should know, we will follow them to the gates of hell until they are brought to justice. Because hell is where they will reside,” he added in a speech at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine Wednesday.
On August 7, President Obama used his powers under the 1973 War Powers Act to authorize limited air strikes against targets in Iraq.
On Thursday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy wrote to members of the Republican caucus that GOP leadership would press the administration for specifics about ISIS’ rise to power and the best means to repulse the terrorist organization. “I believe that it is critical that we confront and defeat ISIL and like-minded terrorists who directly threaten America. I – and I know many of you – have personally called on the Administration to address this growing national security challenge,” McCarthy wrote.
Secretary of State Kerry is scheduled to appear before the House Armed Forces Committee Tuesday to discuss ISIS.
Mark Stricherzis based in Washington. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.