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Obama Excludes US Troop Option Against ISIS: Plans to Rally Moderate Sunni Islamist Opposition

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I believe this is where we say. “Er….Good luck with that”

UK Guardian

By Julian Borger and Patrick Wintour

The US president – who had been derided for saying last month he did not have a strategy to contend with Isis – said he would seek congressional support on Tuesday and then “describe what our game plan’s going to be” in a speech on Wednesday.

“I just want the American people to understand the nature of the threat and how we’re going to deal with it and to have confidence that we’ll be able to deal with it,” the president told NBC’s Meet the Press programme, broadcast on Sunday. “The next phase is now to start going on some offence.”

On the same day, the Arab League called on members to support international efforts against Isis, with its head, Nabil Elaraby, calling on member states to confront it both militarily and politically.

A so-called “core coalition” of 10 countries to tackle Isis announced at last week’s Nato summit in Wales by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, had no Arab members and included only one Muslim state, Turkey.

Obama went out of his way to stress that the new offensive would not represent the unravelling of his most prized foreign policy achievement, the extrication of his country from costly and bloody wars abroad, reiterating his administration’s pledge that it would not send ground troops to either Iraq or Syria, where Isis controls a large swath of territory.

“This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war,” he said. “What this is similar to is the kinds of counter-terrorism campaigns that we’ve been engaging in consistently over the last five, six, seven years.

“We are going to be a part of an international coalition, carrying out air strikes in support of work on the ground by Iraqi troops, Kurdish troops,” he said, adding that increased US military commitment was inevitable in the face of the looming menace. Obama said that there was no intelligence suggesting an imminent Isis threat to the US homeland, but he pointed out that the group, which has publicly murdered two American journalists, has attracted foreign fighters from western nations who could travel to the US “unimpeded” and eventually pose a threat.

A key element of Obama’s US strategy will be to build a regional alliance to contain and ultimately reverse the spread of Isis. Secstate John Kerry spoke to Elaraby by telephone before the weekend meeting of Arab foreign ministers.

Iraq has welcomed greater US military involvement, but the Obama administration has been keen to emphasise that its offensive against Isis does not amount to tacit support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Rather, the US sees the spearhead of its campaign against Isis in Syria as another wing of the anti-Assad opposition, the Free Syrian Army, which America is helping to train and equip. However, Obama’s remarks made it clear that the US priority in Syria now was taking on Isis rather than the regime.

“I will reserve the right to always protect the American people and go after folks who are trying to hurt us wherever they are.

“But in terms of controlling territory, we’re going to have to develop a moderate Sunni opposition that can control territory and that we can work with,” he said. “The notion that the United States should be putting boots on the ground, I think would be a profound mistake. And I want to be very clear and very explicit about that.”

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