World leaders pledged Monday at a crisis summit to help Iraq fight Islamic State militants using “all means possible,” including military action.
The emergency conference in Paris -- attended by 26 countries including key players in the region such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates -- was a positive response to President Obama’s attempts to create a global alliance against the extremist group.
It came as France announced that it had sent Rafale fighter jets on reconnaissance missions over Iraq and that it was prepared to join the United States in bombing Islamic State positions.
However, summit participants made no mention of Syria, where the militant group controls large areas. Iran, Syria’s main ally in the region – was absent; it was not invited to the conference by the French hosts.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry attended after a whirlwind tour of the Middle East to drum up support for the U.S. administration’s proposals.
The summit came two days after Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines, the third western hostage slain by the group. It was similar to previous videos showing the killings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff.
Opening the meeting, French President Francois Hollande said the international threat posed by the militants required a global response.
He urged western and Arab countries to engage “clearly, loyally and strongly at the side of the Iraqi authorities.” There was, he said, “no time to lose” in dealing with the threat. “Iraq’s combat against terrorism is also ours,” he said.
In a joint statement, the countries present, joined by representatives from the Arab League, the European Union and the United Nations, “highlighted the urgent need to remove Daesh from the regions in which it has established itself in Iraq.”
“Daesh” is a colloquial designation for Islamic State based on its Arabic name. The statement added: “To that end, they committed to supporting the new Iraqi government in its fight against Daesh, by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance.”
The Paris conference was aimed at defining the roles each state would play in combating Islamic State. However, French officials warned journalists that not all the decisions would be made public, and there were few specific announcements.
A separate summit will be held in Bahrain to examine ways of cutting off funding and the flow of fighters to the group, but no date was announced.
Speaking after Monday’s meeting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Islamic State was not “a state or representative of Islam.” Nor, he added, were what he called its “throat-cutters.”
“It’s a movement so dangerous that all those here today consider it necessary not just to make it retreat, but to make it disappear altogether,” Fabius said.
“It was a solemn meeting, but when 30 countries among the most powerful in the world, with very different geographical, political and ideological situations, all say we have decided to fight Daesh and not just push it back but defeat it … it’s a moment that gives great hope.”
Ibrahim Jaafari, the Iraqi foreign minister, thanked those taking part for their support, which he said would “alleviate the suffering of all Iraqi people.”
“This conference conveys a clear message, that they are all standing by our side ... that no country will be abandoned, that if it is attacked by terrorists, the whole international community will stand united,” Jaafari said.
Willsher is a special correspondent.