(CNSNews.com) – President Obama on Tuesday thanked representatives of the five Arab nations that took part in Monday night’s U.S.-led airstrikes against terrorists in Syria “for their participation and commitment to rolling back the violent extremism that has so disrupted Iraq and Syria and threatens the region as a whole.”
“Because of the almost unprecedented effort of this coalition,” he said, “I think we now have an opportunity to send a very clear message that the world is united; that all of us are committed to making sure that we degrade and ultimately destroy not only ISIL, but also the kinds of extremist ideologies that would lead to so much bloodshed.”
Obama was speaking in New York during a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, joined by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“This is not going to be something that is quick, and it is not something that is going to be easy,” he said. “It will take time, and it’s not only a military effort.”
The air forces of the UAE, Jordan, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia flew F-15s and F-16s during the mission against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) targets while the Qataris, whose role was described by the Pentagon as a “supporting” one, flew Mirages.
Arab partners’ tasks included “actual strikes on target” as well as combat air patrols, according to Joint Chiefs of Staff director of operations Lt. Gen. William Mayville, who said the majority of the munitions were delivered by U.S. forces.
“This is obviously not the end of an effort, but is rather a beginning,” Obama told the Arab representatives. “But I’m confident with the kind of partnership that is represented here, that we’ll be able to be successful.”
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said earlier Tuesday that Arab participation in the airstrikes had been “an absolute priority” for Obama.
Four of the five countries that took part in the airstrikes confirmed their participation through their official media mouthpieces on Tuesday.
A Bahrain Defense Force official said Bahraini jets had carried out airstrikes and destroyed terrorist targets, as “part of the international efforts to protect regional security and global peace.”
Saudi Arabia’s SPA news agency quoted a government official as saying its air force had taken part in the mission against ISIS.
“The operations were to support the moderate Syrian opposition as part of an international coalition to combat terrorism, which is regarded as a fatal disease, as well as to support the sisterly Syrian people to restore security, unity and development to the war-ravaged country,” the official said.
UAE’s foreign ministry said its air force’s involvement was “in coordination with other forces participating in the international effort against the ISIS.”
A government spokesman in Jordan tied its contribution to terror threats directed at the kingdom.
“In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Royal Jordanian Air Force aircraft destroyed a number of selected targets used by terrorist groups to dispatch their members for terrorist attacks in the Kingdom of Jordan,” the official Petra news agency quoted him as saying.
Jordan shares borders with both Syria and Iraq, and just three days ago, Jordanian aircraft bombed ISIS vehicles entering the country from Iraq, an attempted infiltration raising fresh concerns about threats to a country already badly destabilized by the Syrian civil war and resulting refugee crisis.
The official said Jordan would not hesitate to carry out further attacks to send a clear message to terrorists that Jordan’s border security and the safety of its people were non-negotiable.
Qatar alone did not publicly confirm the participation of its aircraft in the mission. Qatar’s regional policies, which include backing the Muslim Brotherhood and at least tacit support for jihadists fighting in Syria and elsewhere, have placed it at odds with some of its neighbors.
‘Turkey is very much part of this coalition’
Briefing reporters traveling with Obama to New York for three days of U.N.-related meetings, Rhodes said it was “very unique that you have five Arab countries flying with us, taking direct military action in the Middle East on behalf of our common security. That’s a powerful message.”
“To have on the first night of these strikes in Syria Arab partners with us, that was an absolute priority of the president’s,” he said.
Turkey, although a NATO partner and bordering both Syria and Iraq, did not take part in Monday night’s mission. Turkey’s early reluctance to throw its weight behind the coalition was attributed in part to the fact ISIS was holding 49 of its citizens captured in Iraq last summer. The hostages were released at the weekend.
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at a counterterrorism meeting in New York which he co-chaired with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Cavusoglu had assured him of Turkey’s support.
“Turkey is very much part of this coalition, and Turkey will be very engaged on the frontlines of this effort,” Kerry said. “But clearly, Turkey had an initial challenge with respect to its hostages, and that being resolved now, Turkey is ready to conduct additional efforts along with the rest of us in order to guarantee success.”
“And we’re very grateful to Turkey for that willingness.”