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Thursday , January 21 2021

UN okays resolution urging action against Islamic State; Russia pounds DAESH

People hold hands while uniting for a tribute near a makeshift memorial for the victims of a series of deadly attacks in Paris, at the Place de la Republique in Paris on Nov 20. (AFP)
People hold hands while uniting for a tribute near a makeshift memorial for the victims of a series of deadly attacks in Paris, at the Place de la Republique in Paris on Nov 20. (AFP)

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 21, (Agencies): The UN Security Council unanimously approved a French-sponsored resolution Friday calling on all nations to redouble and coordinate action to prevent further attacks by Islamic State terrorists and other extremist groups.
The resolution says the Islamic State group “constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security” and expresses the council’s determination “to combat by all means this unprecedented threat.”
The measure is the 14th terrorism-related resolution adopted by the U.N.’s most powerful body since 1999.
It was adopted a week after violent extremists launched a coordinated gun and bomb assault that killed 130 people in Paris which the Islamic State claims it carried out. It also comes eight days after twin suicide bombings in Beirut killed 43 people, and three weeks after a Russian airliner crashed over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula killing all 224 people on board — both attacks also claimed by IS.

The resolution “unequivocally condemns in the strongest terms” these and earlier “horrifying terrorist attacks” carried out by the Islamic State this year in Sousse, Tunisia and Ankara, Turkey, and calls for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

“Today we sent a clear, unambiguous message that there will be no respite from our collective efforts to stop, suppress and destroy ISIL,” Britain’s UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, the current council president, said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

France’s UN Ambassador called the resolution “historic” and said the government will “scale up its efforts so as to galvanize the international community as a whole to vanquish our shared enemy.”
The resolution calls on UN member states “that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures” against the Islamic State group and all other violent extremist groups “to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria.”

This does not constitute an authorization for military action, however, because the resolution is not drafted under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter which is the only way the United Nations can give a green light to the use of force.

The resolution urges UN member states “to intensify their efforts to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters in Iraq and Syria and to prevent and suppress the financing on terrorism.”
In September 2014, US President Barack Obama chaired a Security Council meeting where members unanimously adopted a resolution requiring all countries to prevent the recruitment and transport of would-be foreign fighters preparing to join terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State group. In February, the council adopted a resolution aimed at tightening its crackdown on financing terrorist groups through illicit oil sales, trading in antiquities and paying ransom for hostages.
The new resolution draws on language in the resolution the council adopted a day after the deadliest terrorist attacks ever on American soil on Sept 11, 2001 which also called on all countries “to redouble their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts including by increased cooperation.”
US deputy ambassador Michele Sison said the unity of the council and the resiliency and resolve of the people affected by IS attacks “show why ISIL will fail in its goal of creating fear and polarizing communities.”
“Through global solidarity and cooperation ISIL and its ideology will be defeated,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is pressing European and Arab allies to provide more troops and support for the war against the Islamic State, hoping that the horror of the Paris attacks — and the fear more are coming — will compel them to get more deeply involved.

The call for help is driven by a hope to build on what the Obama administration sees as the beginnings of battlefield momentum in Iraq and Syria. It may also reflect a sense in the Pentagon that the campaign against the Islamic State has advanced too slowly and requires more urgent and decisive military moves.
US officials say they detect more European interest in contributing to the military campaign in Syria, where many governments have stayed largely on the sidelines. But the officials acknowledge that it will be difficult to get more from budget-strapped countries already involved elsewhere in the world. Chances of drawing significant additional help from Arab nations seem even slimmer.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has made clear the basic US strategy is not changing. But during an hourlong meeting with top advisers and commanders earlier this week, Carter said now is the time to reach out to European allies for support in the fight against the Islamic State, according to a senior defense official. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal Pentagon deliberations.

The official said Carter asked his top advisers — including Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen Joseph Dunford, Gen Philip Breedlove, the top US commander for NATO, and Lt Gen Sean MacFarland, the lead commander in the Islamic State fight — to reach out to Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Turkey for additional military support. The requests span a range of options from equipment and supplies to trainers and special operations forces.

Italy has provided Tornado fighter jets for reconnaissance missions, weapons for Kurdish fighters and training units in Iraq and has said it would consider playing a more active role in Iraq combating the Islamic State, but that no decision has been made. Last month, Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said Italy isn’t considering any role in Syria because Damascus hasn’t asked for assistance.

“We are ready to help our French brothers, but neither they, nor the Americans nor we will make excursions in Syria,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said Thursday on RAI state television.

The US push for broader support for military action in Syria and Iraq comes as France has intensified its aerial bombing in Syria and Russia has widened its air campaign in Syria after concluding that the Islamic State was behind the bomb that brought down a Russian passenger jet in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Oct 31, killing 224 people.

French President Francois Hollande is going to Washington and Moscow next week to push for a stronger international coalition against IS.

Carter told an interviewer on Monday that the Paris attacks have had a “galvanizing” effect on US cooperation with France, including in the sharing of intelligence. He noted that the French responded with immediate airstrikes against IS targets and said the United States is looking for new ways to improve the effectiveness of its military campaign.

“We need others to get in the game as well,” he told a forum sponsored by The Wall Street Journal. “So I’m hoping that this tragedy has the effect of galvanizing others as it has galvanized the French, and really throughout Europe. Because remember, Europe has been participating in part in operations against ISIL, but not, notably, most of them in Syria so far.” Belgium, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands are flying missions in Iraq but not in Syria.

Derek Chollet, a senior adviser at the German Marshall Fund of the United States who previously served as assistant defense secretary for international security, said the Paris attacks may give other European nations the political will and public support they need.

“There is willingness for Europe to get more involved — but it’s a political decision,” said Chollet. “I think now that there’s political space that’s opening because of what happened last week, it makes sense for the US to be perhaps asking some of these tougher questions to European partners about their involvement in places like Syria.”

The problem, however, is that resources are tight.
“The challenge we all have is that it’s not as though there is this capability that is waiting on the shelf somewhere, that it’s just in reserve and if we just could access it would solve all of our problems,” said Chollet. “We are bumping up against the limits — under current budgets and current sizes of militaries. You can’t manufacture this instantly.”

Gen Joseph Dunford, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said “there hasn’t been a great enthusiasm” for ground combat against the Islamic State beyond the local forces already fighting in Iraq and Syria, including Kurds in both countries and an Arab rebel coalition in Syria.

“We would like to see particularly Sunni (Arab) nations … contribute to a greater degree on the ground,” he said, citing in particular the predominantly Sunni states in the Arabian Gulf region, some of whom have flown combat missions over Iraq and Syria but are not engaged in ground combat.

“I think they would have the credibility and, frankly, come without some of the baggage of Western forces to be on the ground,” Dunford told the same Wall Street Journal forum, speaking one day after Carter. “I think there’s some possibility of doing that … that’s something we need to work on.”

Elsewhere, Russia has bombed the Islamic State group in the heaviest strikes in eastern Syria since the war began, as Moscow’s military manoeuvres in the Mediterranean forced Lebanon to reroute flights.
The United Nations, meanwhile, passed a motion calling for action against IS, a week after 130 people were killed in Paris, sparking international condemnation and fears of similar attacks elsewhere in Europe.

Russian and Syrian warplanes carried out more than 70 strikes in eastern Deir Ezzor province on Friday, killing at least 36 people including 10 children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Britain-based group said the raids hit several cities and towns as well as three oilfields, and were the heaviest bombardment of the region since the conflict began in March 2011.

Most of Deir Ezzor province, including large parts of its capital, is held by IS.
The regime still controls the military airport and several smaller areas.
On Saturday, fighting raged between IS and regime forces around the airport, a day after clashes killed 30 people, 22 of them IS militants, according to the Observatory.

Russia began its bombing campaign in support of President Bashar al-Assad on Sept 30, and pledged to step up the strikes after IS claimed that a bomb downed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt last month, killing all 224 people on board.
On Friday, Russia said it had fired cruise missiles from warships in the Caspian Sea and claimed to have killed 600 fighters in recent strikes.
The Observatory says Russian strikes have killed more than 1,300 people since they began, a third of them civilians.

It says 381 IS fighters have been killed in the strikes, along with 547 rebels from other groups including al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
It said 403 civilians have been killed, among them 97 children.
Russia’s military involvement in Syria has stirred tensions with Turkey, which backs the uprising against Assad and has accused Moscow of failing to respect its border and airspace in the campaign.

The Turkish state-run Anatolia news agency reported Saturday that Syrian Turkmen rebels seized from IS the villages of Harjaleh and Dalha in northern Aleppo province near the Turkish border.
It said 70 IS jihadists were killed in the battle for the villages which the Turkmen captured with air support from American and Turkish warplanes.
Turkish officials have said a major joint air operation against IS with the United States was planned, with Turkmen forces fighting on the ground.
They said the aim is to clear of jihadists a 98-km (61-mile) stretch of Syria’s northern border with Turkey still controlled by IS.

On Saturday, flights in and out of Lebanon were rerouted and some airlines cancelled services after Moscow requested they avoid an area over the eastern Mediterranean.
Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi Zeaiter said Moscow asked “that planes leaving Beirut airport towards the west avoid overflying an area in Mediterranean territorial waters because of manoeuvres on Saturday, Sunday and Monday”.
There was no confirmation from Moscow, but a Lebanese airport official said departing flights would be directed south over Sidon and Sarafand to “keep them away from the perimeter of the manoeuvres”.
Lebanon’s national carrier Middle East Airlines said most of its flights would be on schedule but “some flights to the Gulf and the Middle East region might take (a) longer time due to a slight change in airways”.
Kuwait Airways said it was suspending its Beirut flights “as a precautionary measure” but most other flights were arriving and leaving normally.

Turkey’s Dogan news agency said two Turkish Airlines services to Beirut on Friday night were cancelled for “security reasons” after the Russian request, but its Saturday flights were operating normally.
In France, President Francois Hollande’s office said he and British Prime Minister David Cameron would meet Monday to discuss the Syrian conflict and the threat posed by jihadists.

Hollande is also set to meet next week US President Obama, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the wake of France’s worst-ever terror attacks.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution Friday authorising countries to “take all necessary measures” to fight IS in Syria and Iraq.
The resolution, drafted by France, does not provide a legal basis for military action but urges countries to coordinate their efforts to prevent IS “terrorist attacks”.

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