A senior White House official on Thursday signaled the United States is already gathering support from countries in the Middle East for a united front against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
“Countries that don’t have a lot in common and countries that don’t always cooperate with us are starting to stand up,” White House deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe."
Blinken was asked whether countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia are expected to join the coalition the Obama administration is building.
“The short answer is, I think, 'yes,' ” Blinken replied, adding these governments are “starting to see the [ISIS] threat are the wolf at their door.”
“Saudis and others [are] strongly on board,” he said. He did not specifically name other countries, though he acknowledged the United Arab Emirates issued a strong statement against ISIS on Wednesday.
Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco are expected to travel to the region to build a network of support.
Blinken outlined President Obama’s “comprehensive plan” to disrupt and defeat ISIS, which he said is “advancing.” The U.S. must target ISIS’s support network that funds the group, creates its propaganda and drives recruitment efforts of foreign fighters, he said. The U.S. must also disrupt local support on the ground and enable local actors battling ISIS.
The White House also intends to consult with members of Congress when they return to Capitol Hill next week about plans to strengthen the moderate opposition in Syria, Blinken said.
“When Congress gets back next week, we’ll be talking to them about that,” he said, referring to a train-and-equip program that could help Syrian rebels battle ISIS and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
On CNN late Wednesday, Blinken suggested Obama’s successor might have to continue efforts against ISIS.
"This, as the president has said, is going to have to be a sustained effort," he said. "It's going to take time, and it will probably go beyond even this administration to get to the point of defeat."
Many lawmakers have been pushing the Obama administration to launch airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The president, however, said last week that the White House did not yet have a comprehensive strategy to execute that.