There are some 60 States in the American-led coalition pledged to degrading and destroying Islamic State – but only 21 – regarded as “key members” were at the Conference in London on 22 January – which UK Foreign Minister Philip Hammond described in these terms:
“Today, 21 key members of the global coalition met in London to review and discuss our efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL not just through military force, but by addressing the underlying narrative of the organization, its financing, its flow of foreign fighters, and by reasserting our commitment to Iraq. In total, over 60 countries have signed up to the global coalition, showing the international will and commitment to combat this threat.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry was at pains to clarify why the other 39 States had not joined the talk-fest:
“And all the coalition partners are continuing to make vital contributions .., and we mean all 60. Whether it’s sheltering refugees, training, advising Iraqi troops on the front lines, or speaking out against Daesh’s [Islamic State – Ed] hateful, false ideology, we appreciate the contribution of every single member, each of whom has chosen one line of effort or another.
But we also recognize the need to, as effectively as possible, be able to coordinate all of these contributions. And that’s what the small group that came here today set out to do. The small group will continue to meet on a regular basis and continue, obviously, to consult with the full 60 members of the coalition, who will meet again as a full membership.”
The non-participation of the world’s remaining 133 States in the American-led coalition did not escape Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi’s attention – as he wryly noted:
“Daesh is a terrorist organization. It knows no race, no religion, no region. It spares nobody, so everybody must be facing Daesh.”
Al-Abadi was therefore being more than a little cynical when he stated:
“that Iraq is not alone, the Iraqi people are not alone, but the entire world stands with Iraq.”
One can only ask - why then are these 133 reluctant States not members of the American-led coalition? Are they prepared to let the other 60 States do the heavy lifting for them whilst they just sit by and watch? Will they only be motivated to join the American led coalition when Islamic State comes knocking at their door?
Pointedly the Joint Press Availability with UK Foreign Secretary Hammond and Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi - issued by the US State Department following the London Conference - made no mention of any discussion having taken place at the Conference concerning Yemen’s dramatic cave-in last week – resulting in the resignation of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi after having being held captive following a concerted assault waged by Houthi rebels.
Yemen had been allowing the United States to wage counterterror drone strike operations targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from Yemen’s sovereign territory.
Membership of Al Qaeda and Islamic State was respectively claimed by the perpetrators of two horrific massacres in Paris at the offices of publisher Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket - resulting in the murder of seventeen people whilst putting France on a state of highest alert to counter any further possible terrorist attacks in their wake.
The events in Yemen represent a spectacular collapse of President Obama’s policy for similarly countering Islamic State in Iraq - by training supplying and using Iraqi forces to fight Islamic State on the ground whilst the coalition counters Islamic State from the air.
President Obama laid out this policy on 10 September 2014 – citing Yemen as an example of how that policy was working:
“Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL. And any time we take military action, there are risks involved –- especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions. But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years. And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.”
Could Yemen’s fate herald the Iraqi Government’s possible collapse? The Kurds held out with US air strikes helping them, but they are a united fighting force.
Al-Abadi ominously told the London Conference:
“Another issue, which is being discussed today, is the fiscal problem for Iraq. You know oil prices have dropped to about 40 percent of their level last year. Iraqi economy and budget relies 85 percent on oil, and this has been disastrous for us…
… We don't want to see a reverse of our military victory because of our budget and fiscal problems and we have been assured that every member of this coalition will stand with Iraq in its fight against Da'esh “
How long will it take Obama to understand that Islamic State can only be comprehensively defeated by military action undertaken on the ground by a properly equipped and authorised United Nations international force?