Middle East must fight for itself, Kerry says

US rejects offer from Iran to help with ISIS for nuclear concessions; ISIS calls Obama "mule of the Jews," encouraging attacks on US, France, Egypt.

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September 22, 2014 21:47
3 minute read.
Secretary Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to lead UN Security Council meeting about Iraq in New York, September 19. (photo credit: STATE DEPARTMENT PHOTO)

NEW YORK – The US will not compromise in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program in exchange for help in combating Islamic State, the White House said on Monday, after Iranian officials reportedly suggested such a deal.

The two issues are “entirely separate,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

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“The United States will not be in the position of trading aspects of Iran’s nuclear program to secure commitments to take on ISIL [Islamic State].”

The Iranian delegation, including President Hassan Rouhani, arrived in New York on Monday morning for the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, as US Secretary of State John Kerry met with former president Shimon Peres and, shortly afterward, European Union high representative Catherine Ashton at the Waldorf- Astoria Hotel over progress in the nuclear talks.

US officials have engaged with their Iranian counterparts since Thursday in negotiations over the nuclear file, and, separately, on the threat of Islamic State, hoping for progress on the former and political support on the latter. Kerry has said that Iran has a role to play in a coalition against the Islamist organization, though at the same time, Washington has no intention of coordinating with Tehran.

Islamic State, a terrorist group holding territory throughout eastern Syria and northern Iraq, on Monday called for attacks against US and French assets, as well as against the security forces of Egypt.

“Rig the roads with explosives” for the Egyptians, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani said in a statement. “Attack their bases. Raid their homes. Cut off their heads.”

A French citizen was kidnapped in Algeria hours after the social media call, but no group had yet claimed responsibility for the crime.

France is only one of three countries that has publicly announced its intention to conduct air strikes against the group in Iraq, alongside Australia and the US. But Paris on Monday ruled out extending that air campaign into Syria.

Calling US President Barack Obama a “crusader” and the “mule of the Jews,” the group said that the US-led campaign against it would fail, “just as all your previous campaigns were broken and defeated.”

But once again clarifying the nature of the campaign, Kerry reiterated that the US civilian leadership would not entertain putting American troops into combat roles on the ground.

“Americans are not going to go back in there, because we’ve learned a lot,” Kerry said, interviewed by NBC on Monday morning. “And this is a fight for the region. Every country in the region is deeply threatened by this. And that includes Iran, that includes Lebanon. It includes all of the neighborhood. And it is absolutely fair and appropriate to expect that that region will fight for itself.”

More than 50 countries are now on board, in one capacity or another, in the fight against Islamic State, Kerry said, including 37 nations that were represented publicly, at the ministerial level, before the UN Security Council last Friday.

One such country is Iran, which agreed with the US, saying: This group is neither Islamic, nor a state.

The Shi’ite government in Tehran is a declared enemy of the Sunni extremist group.

In Turkey’s South, more than 130,000 refugees have spilled over the border in less than a week. Syrian Kurds are fighting an Islamic State advance, and have requested air assistance, similar to what the US has provided Iraq’s Kurds in the northeast Arbil.

Russia, too, is working with “partners on a plan to counter Islamic State in the framework of international law,” a Kremlin spokesman said. Russia and Iran have warned that US strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria would violate international law and constitute an “act of aggression.”


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