Mixed reactions to Obama’s strategy to tackle IS
Baghdad/Damascus/Washington, Sep 11 (IANS) From scepticism to support, there were mixed reactions from key stakeholders Thursday to US President Barack Obama’s announcement of sweeping airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist group in Iraq and Syria.
While Iraq and the main Syrian opposition coalition extended support to the US plan, the Syrian government said that its consent would be needed if international forces were to strike IS targets within its territory.
The mainstream US media and Iran expressed scepticism over the Obama strategy and the NATO coalition albeit on different grounds.
Turkey reportedly is reluctant to allow the US-led coalition to use a key airbase within its territory against the IS militants.
In a speech Wednesday, Obama said he would lead an expanded global coalition to address the threat of terrorism, authorizing US airstrikes inside Syria for the first time and sending 475 more US troops to Iraq, on top of the 1,125 already there.
The US military has so far conducted about 150 airstrikes on IS targets inside Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi Thursday welcomed US President Barack Obama’s announcement.
“Iraq welcomes Obama’s strategy with regard to supporting the country in its war,” against IS and other terrorist groups, Abadi said in a statement.
He also welcomed the steps taken to rally an international coalition against the IS to end its presence in the region, Xinhua reported.
The Syrian National Coalition, the main opposition political alliance of Syria, also said it was willing to cooperate with the international community to defeat the IS, Efe news agency reported.
In a statement, Hadi Al-Bahra, the president of the Syrian National Coalition, urged the US Congress to approve “as soon as possible” US President Barack Obama’s plan to fight the IS and enable the training and arming of the Free Syrian Army (FSA).
He emphasised that the FSA needed support in the form of equipment to defeat the jihadis and act “as guardian of the Syrian people against extremism and tyranny”.
In Damascus, however, Syria’s Minister of Reconciliation Ali Haidar Thursday reiterated that any uncoordinated foreign airstrikes on Syrian territories without the consent of the Syrian government will be deemed as aggression.
“Any action of any kind without the consent of the Syrian government will be deemed as an aggression,” Xinhua quoted Haidar as saying.
Meanwhile, major US newspapers Thursday expressed doubts on the effectiveness of President Obama’s plans against the IS in Iraq and Syria, while warning about risks of an extensive military campaign in the Middle East, Efe reported.
“There will be no turning back once airstrikes enter Syrian territory, unleashing events that simply cannot be foreseen. Surely that’s a lesson America has learned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the New York Times said in its editorial Thursday.
“The rise of the Islamic State, or something like it, was a foreseeable consequence of the Syrian conflict, and of the Obama administration’s failure to come to grips with it,” argued the Washington Post in its editorial.
“Any notion of US disengagement from the Middle East is no longer tenable — if it ever was.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, in his speech Obama “rejected” the policy he had maintained over the past three years regarding Syria, where he has not intervened until now.
“He (Obama) deserves public support as long as he is willing to fight this war — let’s call it what it is — with more resolve and persistence than he has heretofore shown in his presidency,” said the Journal.
In Tehran, Iran’s foreign ministry said there were serious ambiguities in the real intention of an emerging so-called international coalition against the IS.
“There are doubts about seriousness of the coalition which has come to existence after the NATO summit, in its fight against terrorists,” IRNA news agency quoted foreign ministry spokeswoman Maziyeh Afkham as saying.
Afkham argued that certain member states of the so-called coalition were among financial and security supporters of terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
According to a Xinhua report from Ankara, Turkey was not eager to allow the US-led coalition to use its Incirlik Air Base to launch attacks on IS in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.
As part of the struggle against the IS, the Incirlik Air Base and Turkish air space have been already used for the transfer of non-lethal material to Iraqi Army and Kurdistan Regional Government forces, Turkish daily Radikal quoted sources saying on condition of anonymity.
The Incirlik Air Base, in Turkey’s southern Adana province, maintains cooperation with NATO. It is listed by the US Air Force as being among its top “Main Operating Bases”.