Hollande met with Obama in Washington to discuss the war against ISIS in wake of the Islamic terror attacks in Paris. The US president is resisting calls to significantly escalate his approach.
Pledging solidarity after the Paris terror attacks, President Barack Obama promised Tuesday to work with France and other allies to intensify the US-led campaign against the Islamic State, saying America would not be cowed by the scourge of terrorism. To this point, Obama said, Russia is an “outlier” in the fight.
“We cannot and we will not succumb to fear,” Obama said, standing alongside French President Francois Hollande after they met at the White House to discuss the anti-ISIS mission. “Make no mistake, we will win, and groups like ISIL will lose.”
Hollande’s trip to Washington was part of a diplomatic push to get the US and other nations to bolster efforts to destroy the terrorist group that has claimed responsibility for the November 13 attacks. Hollande emerged from his meeting with Obama saying that France and the US had agreed to step up a “joint response,” including new efforts to target terrorists’ financial networks, take back IS-controlled territory, scale up efforts in Syria and Iraq and increase intelligence sharing.
The two countries “share the determination to fight terrorism anywhere,” Hollande said, through a translator.
Skepticism Vis-a-Vis Russia
The French president had planned to urge Obama to work with Russia to build a new coalition to fight the extremists, but his mission quickly became entangled with the fallout from a Russian military plane downed by Turkey Tuesday. The shootdown underscored what some see as a need for better coordination among the sprawling cast of interests engaged on the battlefields and in the skies above Iraq and Syria. At the same time, conflicting accounts and rising tensions stood to make any closer contact between interests more difficult.
US forces were not involved in the air incident, according to an American military official, who was not authorized to discuss the incident publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Obama cautioned that information about the incident was still emerging, and he discouraged escalation, adding that Turkey had a “right to defend its territory and its airspace.”
Even before the incident between Turkey and Russia, Hollande faced a tough challenge in getting Obama to agree to a partnership with Moscow. The US is deeply skeptical of President Vladimir Putin’s motivations, given his longstanding support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama Facing Pressure
Nearly five years of clashes between Assad’s government and rebel forces have created a vacuum that has allowed the ISIS to thrive. The group appears to now be focusing on targets outside its base in Syria and Iraq, including attacks in Lebanon and Turkey and the downing of a Russian airliner over Egypt.
Given the rash of attacks, Obama is now facing increased pressure at home and abroad to ramp up US efforts to destroy the terrorist group. So far, Obama is resisting calls to significantly escalate his approach, and instead is focused on getting other countries to offer more counterintelligence, humanitarian and military assistance.
The US campaign has centered largely on airstrikes as well as the training and assisting of security forces on the ground in Iraq. Efforts to train and equip moderate rebel groups in Syria have struggled, and Obama has authorized the deployment of 50 special operations forces to the country to jumpstart the program.
France has stepped up its airstrikes following the Paris attacks, relying in part on US intelligence to hit targets in Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s stronghold in Syria. British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday he would seek parliamentary approval this week for Britain to begin airstrikes as well.
The Refugee Threat
Last week, Hollande called for the US and Russia to set aside their policy divisions over Syria and “fight this terrorist army in a broad, single coalition.” But his office acknowledges that “coordination” sounds like a far more realistic goal.
Obama and Hollande also discussed the flow of thousands of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Obama has tried to tamp down fears that terrorists may pose as refugees, and repeatedly has defended his plan to accept 10,000 refugees in the US. Hollande warned against identifying migration with terrorism but said that, at the same time, tougher border controls are needed.
Israel on the Front Line
Following the Paris attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he instructed Israeli intelligence and security to assist their European counterparts “in any way possible. Linking the terror in Europe to the current wave of violence in Israel, Netanyahu urged “the entire civilized world to unite to defeat the plague of worldwide terrorism.”
“We are standing on the front line against terrorism, that is increasingly being transformed from Palestinian nationalistic terrorism to Islamic terrorism,” the Israeli leader stated.
By: AP and United with Israel Staff