Hollande hopes to spur US to do more against Islamic State

23 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Hollande hopes to spur U.S. to do more against Islamic State.

French President Francois Hollande hopes to spur Washington to greater action against Islamic State, but it is unclear to what extent he can overcome the White House’s reluctance to get sucked further into the Syria conflict.

PARIS—French President François Hollande embarks Monday on a weeklong whirlwind of diplomacy to marshal an international coalition for the war he has declared on terror and Islamic State.President Obama on Sunday urged Americans not to “succumb to fear” or accept the threat of terrorism as a “new normal,” vowing as the United States intensifies its military campaign that defeating the Islamic State was “not only a realistic goal, we’re going to get it done.” In a news conference closing a three-nation tour of Asia, Obama seemed to acknowledge the critique that he’s misjudged the threat of the Islamic State while at the same time challenging its validity, expressing resolve to defeat the terrorist network “with every aspect of American power,” but later arguing that the best way to do so would be to deprive it of the exalted status its leaders seek. At one point the president seemed to dismiss the radical group as “a bunch of killers with good social media” as he was asked to explain to the American people just how it should view the security threat it poses. Prime Minister David Cameron, takes the French leader to Washington and Moscow, and ends with a late dinner back in the French capital Sunday with Chinese President XI Jinping.

In a nearly hour-long news conference he repeatedly urged the public to take a long view of recent events, saying for instance that Americans should “catch our breath” amid a political storm over the prospect of accepting Syrian refugees. Obama said the kind of “prejudice” shown in the debate, including some “radical” ideas from Republican presidential hopefuls, “helps ISIL and undermines our national security.” “And so even as we destroy ISIL on the battlefield — and we will destroy them,” he said, “we want to make sure that we don’t lose our own values and our own principles.

The U.S. strategy, as described by Obama, includes air strikes that began after the militant group seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria last year; working with local forces rather than putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground; and pursuing a diplomatic solution to end the Syrian civil war. Hollande from domestically embattled French leader, struggling with a poor economic record ahead of regional elections, into an international military coordinator. He invoked the memory of Nohemi Gonzalez, the 23-year-old Californian killed in Paris, as well as another American killed in the more recent attack in Mali — saying they reminded him “of my daughters, or my mother.” “It is worth us remembering when we look at the statistics that there are beautiful, wonderful lives behind the terrible death tolls that we see in these places,” he said. But one of the real opportunities in the wake of Paris is for others – European countries, Gulf states, for this coalition as a whole – to do more and for other players to step up and do more of the heavy lifting here.”

And he has so far stuck with a strategy of leading the coalition air-strikes in Syria and sending roughly 50 Special Forces members into that country. If the other goal of the Paris massacre was to frighten France out of the air campaign in Syria — the way Spain withdrew from the Iraq War after the terror attack on its trains in 2004 — they picked the wrong country.

In fact, a Fox News poll released Sunday found that 67 percent of those surveyed opposes the president’s plan to take in at least 10,000 more Syrian refugees through next year. France is a serious post-colonial power, as demonstrated in Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic and Mali, which France saved from an Islamist takeover in 2013. And 49 percent responded that it was “very likely” that at least one person coming into the country through the process would be a terrorist who will succeed in carrying out an attack on U.S. soil. Hollande will seek to reassure his counterparts that Paris is safe enough to host an international climate conference that is expected to assemble at least 140 heads of state Nov. 30.

The event, known as COP 21, is taking place at the Le Bourget center outside Paris, and authorities have banned marches planned by activists on the streets of Paris and other cities. Marco Rubio called for more foot soldiers in Syria — mostly Arab Sunnis with some American “special operators.” Rubio also backed the bill passed Thursday by the GOP-led House that would increase the vetting of refugees from Syria’s 4-year-long civil war, calling it an “appropriate response.” He also argued the existing vetting process appears adequate but the problem is that officials don’t have a good database on applicants from which to work. His news conference in Turkey was marked by a stunning tone of passivity, detachment and lassitude, compounded by impatience and irritability at the very suggestion that his Syria strategy might be failing. Islamic terrorists are also claiming responsibility for the attack Friday on a luxury hotel in Mali that killed 19 people, including one American, 41-year-old Anita Datar of suburban Washington.

But she argued more must be done more quickly. “Assad has got to go, but the question is how and where and over what period of time. … He’s killed 250,000 people,” Feinstein, vice chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told CBS’s “Face the Nation. “I’m concerned that we don’t have the time, and we don’t have years. Such as, “I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters.” An “entire” discussion, mind you.

Hollande calls a “grand and single coalition” against that threat, he needs to circumvent international impasses and domestic concerns in different countries. Obama has outlined two conditions for cooperating with Russia in Syria—Moscow’s continued “constructive” role in a political resolution and a shift in its military strategy to focus airstrikes solely on Islamic State targets, not all opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad as part of the solution. “The question at this point is whether they can make a strategic adjustment that allows them to be effective partners with us,” Mr.

Putin on Thursday a day after dining in Paris with German Chancellor Angela Merkel—have sought to capitalize on the French president’s overtures as a way to bring Russia out of international isolation. Alexei Pushkov, a pro-Kremlin lawmaker who heads the lower house of parliament’s international affairs committee, said Friday that sanctions against Russia for the annexation for its intervention in Ukraine would no longer be the No. 1 priority for the West.

—Noemie Bisserbe and Alexis Flynn in Paris, Nick Winning in London, Colleen McCain Nelson in Kuala Lumpur, Carol Lee in Washington and James Marson in Moscow contributed to this article.

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