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Obama's ISIL Speech Brags of Somalia & Yemen, Nothing on Libya

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 10 -- US President Barack Obama's speech was 2010 words long, mentioning Yemen and Somalia twice each, but Libya not once. Libya was an intervention Obama directed for the US, that has left dueling militia and missing passenger jets in its wake.

   The speech mentioned the UN once, the UN Security Council session on foreign fighters that Obama will chair on September 24. But what about at least seeking UN Security Council approval for air strikes on Syria? Apparently not.

   In calling for the arming of the Syrian opposition, including by Saudi Arabia, some question the qualitative difference with arming and training of rebels in Ukraine and snark: my rebels good, your rebels bad.

   Before the speech there were these quotes, embargoed until exactly 6:30 pm:

“So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.”
“But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.”

  Whether it has been successful in Yemen -- where the Houthis drove all the way to Sana'a -- or Somalia where the US' local partners raised Shabelle Media, is UNclear. We'll cover the speech.

   Starting from the beheading of US journalist James Foley, the Syrian Coalition has pushed harder to equate Assad and the Islamic State, and to present themselves, based in Turkey, as a key to fighting ISIL. Their pitch on the Arab League meeting is below.

 But first, this read-out from a Senior US State Department official, of Secretary of State Kerry's call with Nabil al-Arabi:

"Secretary Kerry spoke with the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil Elaraby today to discuss developments in the region and to provide an update on efforts to combat ISIL in advance of the Arab League meetings which start tomorrow.  They discussed the need for the Arab League and its members to take a strong position in the coalition that is developing against ISIL and the importance of decisive action to stop the flow of foreign fighters, counter ISIL's financing, and combat its incitement.

"The Secretary emphasized that the military aspect is only one part of this effort and that to degrade and destroy the threat posed by ISIL will require a holistic approach that will take time, persistence and require coordination with our Arab partners at the international, regional, and local level – combining military, law enforcement, intelligence, economic, and diplomatic tools. Both leaders also recognized that Iraq is on the front line in the war against ISIL and that Iraq, the United States, the region, and the international community must stand together to assist Iraq in facing this threat."

  Earlier on September 6 the Syrian Coalition issued a statement that:

"Nasr al-Hariri, Secretary General of the Syrian Coalition, calls on the Arab League to go beyond political recognition of the Syrian Coalition and grant it full legal recognition as the representative of the Syrian people during a meeting held today with Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil al-Arabi.

 "Al Arabi invited the Syrian Coalition to occupy Syria’s seat in the Arab League tomorrow and speak on behalf of the Syrian people. 'Fighting terrorism cannot be done piecemeal, therefore the Arab League’s resolution must include putting an end to the terror practiced by the Assad regime against the Syrian people,' Al Hariri said commenting on the Arab League’s intention to pass a resolution to confront terrorism during the upcoming ministerial meeting."

  The Syrian Coalition said it will churn out a quote right after Obama's speech.

Footnote: Agence France Presse, purporting an info-graphic of journalists killed last year, listed four as killed "in Gaza." Since all other listed jurisdiction are full UN member states, some surmised AFP's nomenclature let off the hook the killer of those journalists. Despite calling it social media, 17 days later AFP has not responded.


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