Kerry: Anti-ISIS Coalition Aims to Demolish 'The Distortion of One of the World’s Great Peaceful Religions’

Patrick Goodenough | September 8, 2014 | 11:39pm EDT
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Secretary of State John Kerry speaks at State Department in Washington, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

( – “Almost every single country on earth has a role to play” in tackling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL), Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday, listing potential contributions ranging from military action to “demolishing the distortion of one of the world’s great peaceful religions.”

Speaking at the State Department ahead of a visit to region to continue efforts to build a “global, coordinated” anti-ISIS coalition, Kerry said there were various things countries could do in response to the threat posed by the Sunni jihadists who have captured territory across Syria and Iraq.

“As we build this coalition, I want to underscore that almost every single country on earth has a role to play in eliminating the ISIL threat and the evil that it represents,” he said.

“For some that will mean military assistance, both direct and in the form of training, arming, and advising, equipping. For some it will mean contributing to the desperately needed humanitarian relief effort. For some it will mean helping to identify, track, and cut off ISIL’s funding, and prevent the flow of foreign fighters,” Kerry continued.

“For still others it will mean demolishing the distortion of one of the world’s great peaceful religions and counteracting the propaganda ISIL uses to recruit new supporters,” he said. “And for all it will mean publicly supporting the new inclusive government in Iraq.”

Kerry outlined what several countries have already offered, including the provision of military assistance (Canada, Britain, France, Estonia, Albania, Australia) and humanitarian aid (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, France, Britain, Japan, Australia).

“The UAE [United Arab Emirates] has agreed to take on ISIL’s support networks and beat back against its militant ideological propaganda,” he said.

Kerry welcomed Monday’s developments in Baghdad, where parliament voted to approve most of incoming Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s proposed cabinet, which includes Shi’ites as well as minority Sunnis and Kurds.

“Overcoming the obstacle of ethnic and sectarian divides, the Iraqi parliament approved a new and inclusive government, one that has the potential to unite all of Iraq’s diverse communities for a strong Iraq, a united Iraq, and to give those communities the chance to build the future that all Iraqis desire and deserve,” he said.

The administration has argued for months that a more inclusive government in Iraq is crucial if Sunnis, many of whom felt marginalized under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, are to throw their support behind efforts to defeat ISIS.

Kerry heads to Saudi Arabia and Jordan on Tuesday to continue discussions on confronting ISIS, and on Wednesday President Obama is due to address the American people on how his administration will address the crisis.

Kerry said the president “will lay out in even greater detail our coordinated global strategy against ISIL,” and expressed confidence that that the campaign – which he said would be built to endure for months and perhaps even years to come – would succeed.

“What we’re working to accomplish will require hard work, sustained commitment, and unwavering focus from all of us,” he said. “But we are clear that President Obama and I and the entire team absolutely understand this is something we must achieve, and we will be successful.”

Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant fighters in eastern Syria. The ubiquitous ISIS banner features the Islamic declaration of faith, “There is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.” (Screenshot: ISIS propaganda video)

‘Nothing to do with Islam’

Kerry’s remarks about the “distortion” of Islam come as Muslim leaders in the region and beyond grapple with the rise of a brutally violent group that claims to be acting in the name of Islam, has declared an Islamic “caliphate” and invokes Mohammed and the Qur’an in its propaganda aimed at luring Muslims from around the world.

Its atrocities have prompted a growing number of mainstream religious leaders in the Middle East to condemn ISIS, saying its campaign has nothing to do with their religion.

The Obama administration, too, has taken pains to dissociate ISIS from Islam.

In his response to ISIS’ murder of U.S. journalist James Foley last month Obama said that the group “speaks for no religion.” After the subsequent beheading of a second journalist, Kerry said that “the face of Islam is not the butchers who killed Steven Sotloff … The real face of Islam is a peaceful religion based on the dignity of all human beings.”

A similar sentiment was expressed last week by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who in a parliamentary speech on the ISIS threat said “we should be clear that this is nothing to do with Islam, which is a religion peacefully observed and devoutly observed by over a billion people and one that inspires countless acts of kindness every day.”
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