President takes ISIS fight to UN

President takes ISIS fight to UN
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President Obama will take the reins of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday seeking to build support for a prolonged military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Obama’s stint as chair of the Security Council — the second of his presidency — will come just over 24 hours after the United States broadened its assault against ISIS with airstrikes in Syria.


The strikes were bolstered by support from Arab allies, highlighting how Obama is increasingly turning his multilateralism into an instrument of war.

That’s a far cry from 2009, when Obama was a month away from winning the Nobel Peace Prize and his agenda at the United Nations was ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

Now Obama is coming to the U.N. as a wartime leader intent on destroying an enemy that his Defense secretary said is “unlike anything” the nation has seen before.

His top priority? To convince other nations to contribute their military assets and money in the fight against ISIS.

“This is not America’s fight alone,” Obama said Tuesday in comments about the strikes from the South Lawn of the White House.

Five Arab nations — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Qatar — assisted in Monday night’s airstrikes, which hit 14 ISIS targets within Syria. 

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes described their participation in the bombing campaign, which destroyed or damaged ISIS training compounds; headquarters; storage facilities; a finance center; and supply trucks and armed vehicles, as a “powerful message.”

The White House acknowledged its coalition-building efforts are in the early stages, and that the president is seeking bigger global commitments. 

Obama planned to meet with the leaders of the five Arab nations at a session organized by Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, and he will lobby other countries to join in the bombing campaign, provide equipment or training, or help finance the operation.

“Part of what the president is going to be doing at the United Nations is consulting with allies and partners about additional contributions that can be made in both Iraq and Syria,” Rhodes said.

Former administration officials said Obama needs to win international support, given the war-weariness of the U.S. public.

While there has been broad public support for the bombing campaign against ISIS, there is little interest in another lengthy U.S. military engagement in the Middle East. 

One former official said it was important for the president to cultivate partners who are willing to help through the long haul. 

“It’s the only way we win,” the official said.

Ben Chang, a former National Security Council official under Obama, argued Tuesday’s bombing campaign could help in recruiting allies by demonstrating the president’s determination.

“There was a lot of hand-wringing about indecisiveness,” Chang said. “But here, you have decisive action, interestingly before a marquee event, you have a coalition of Arab countries and decisive forceful action.”

In New York, Obama will press for a Security Council resolution that calls on other nations to step up the efforts to block the flow of foreign fighters through their countries.

According to senior administration officials, an estimated 15,000 individuals, including 2,000 Europeans and an estimated 100 Americans, have entered Iraq and Syria to join terror groups like ISIS and the Khorasan Group, which was also targeted by U.S. airstrikes inside Syria on Monday. The White House has said they are worried that radicalized individuals who travel to conflict zones to fight alongside the terror group could use their Western passports to return home and carry out acts of terror.

The resolution will call on nations to adopt new laws and regulations to prosecute and penalize those affiliated with terror groups, prevent the entry or transit of individuals linked to terrorism and target the willful provision of funds to terror groups. Countries will also create an international clearinghouse for intelligence about foreign fighters.

It will be just the second time in U.N. history that a U.S. president chairs a Security Council meeting, which the White House says emphasizes the priority Obama is putting on the counterterrorism issue.

“It sends a very, very powerful signal this is an issue of the highest priority,” one senior administration official said.

A successful vote within the Security Council could also help the president galvanize support back in Washington. Although congressional leadership uniformly endorsed Monday’s airstrikes in Syria, some lawmakers expressed concern that the president acted without explicit approval.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said Tuesday she was “gravely concerned” by the president’s action and called on Obama to leverage his international coalition “to achieve the political solution that will end this crisis.”

“Only a political solution that respects the rights of all Iraqis and Syrians will ultimately dismantle ISIS,” she said.

Still, Obama said he was pleased “that there is bipartisan support for the actions we are taking” while re-emphasizing for skittish lawmakers that the U.S. was acting “as part of a broad coalition.”

“America is always stronger when we stand united, and that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do what’s necessary to defend our country,” Obama said.