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Building Common Ground in the Mideast


Iraqi security forces are deployed during a military operation to regain control of the villages around the town of Beiji, some 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. The commander of U.S. forces fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Army Lt. Gen. James Terry says the extremist group has been thrown on the defensive, because coalition airstrikes and other measures are taking a toll on IS ability to communicate. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

“If there’s any opportunity hidden in the Daesh challenge, it’s the chance to build the common ground needed to address…shared threats and to pursue shared interests.”

The terror group ISIL, or Daesh, as it is called in the region, is an organization with one goal, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry: “To impose its reign of terror over as many people and as much territory as it can and by any means necessary.”

A broad coalition of over 60 countries has organized to fight the immediate threat posed by ISIL. But, Mr. Kerry said, a long-term strategy aimed at addressing the issues driving the cycle of conflict throughout the Middle East, including radical religious extremism, lack of economic opportunity, gross violations of human rights, and the failure to provide hope to a generation of young people, is required to secure a future where terrorists like ISIL, or “Daesh” in Arabic, cannot thrive.

“If there’s any opportunity hidden in the Daesh challenge, it’s the chance to build the common ground needed to address…shared threats and to pursue shared interests,” said Secretary Kerry.

That chance, he noted, has already been seized by Iraqi and Kurdish forces whose historic level of cooperation in their fight against ISIL has resonated deeply in both communities:

“And the presence of Saudis and Emiratis and Jordanians and Qataris and others, all of them facing this challenge now, is the sign of a new set of possibilities for regional engagement in security and counter-terrorism and anti-extremism that may open new windows for all of us, including Israel, Palestinians, Jordan, Egypt.”

There is still a long way to go, and the Middle East remains profoundly divided, Mr. Kerry said:

“But in the midst of acts of terror and even more, we are seeing the potential of the emergence of a new regional alignment, with little in common but a shared aversion to extremists. But I will tell you what they are telling me. They are telling me that they are prepared to stand up and make peace with Israel, and they are telling me that they believe there is in this moment the ability to create a new regional alliance against the Hamases, the Daeshes and the Ahrar al- Shams and the Boko Harams and so forth.”

“It has become clearer to all,” said Secretary of State Kerry, “that defeating violent extremism and strengthening regional cooperation are two ways to build a better future for the Middle East.”

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