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Defeating the Islamic State


This undated file image shows fighters from the al-Qaida linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching in Raqqa, Syria.

Assad’s “barbarism against his own people created an enormous vacuum. That type of environment ... attracts people who are drawn into ISIL. So he’s part of the problem.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and IS, continues its barbarous assault in Syria and Iraq, horrifying the international community with its savagery, including mass executions, beheadings, forced conversions, pillage, and rape.

The regime of Bashar al Assad in Syria is now claiming that his government is the only force extant that can confront and defeat this scourge and has invited others to join him in the fight.

U.S. officials, however, point to the Assad regime’s role in the rise of the Islamic State. Assad facilitated the flow of foreign terrorists into the area for a decade, responded to peaceful protests with violence, then launched a campaign of gassing, barrel-bombing, and starving Syrian civilians. He cannot be a partner against terrorism when his regime is being prolonged by terroristic actions that feed extremism.

As Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes noted in a recent interview, Assad’s “barbarism against his own people created an enormous vacuum. That type of environment of violent conflict and sectarian conflict also attracts people who are drawn into ISIL. So he’s part of the problem.”

Mr. Rhodes said the United States believes “the long-term strategy for defeating ISIL, and shrinking steadily the space where they operate is to strengthen the Iraqi security forces on the Iraq side of the border so that they are able to dislodge ISIL from their communities, and to strengthen moderate Syrian opposition forces, so that they too are able to fight against ISIL. That moderate opposition is the same alternative that we have supported [against] Assad as well.”

Deputy National Security Adviser Rhodes said the United States is seeking to build a coalition of countries that share an interest in stopping ISIL’s bloody advance. “If we have that type of coalition that is working together,” he said, “we can squeeze the space that ISIL is operating in.” Mr. Rhodes noted that Iraq’s progress in forming a new government will make it “easier to get buy-in [cooperation] from regional states and from Sunni communities in Iraq to dislodge ISIL.”

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