In Paris, a renewed determination to fight ISIS

Friday 12/06/2015
Frustration in the air. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (L) and French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius during Paris meeting.

Paris - Behind closed doors there was clearly a feeling of frustration in Paris among members of the international coalition gathered to review their so far un­successful strategy to defeat the jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq.
The foreign ministers of 20 or so members of the coalition tried to assess what went wrong recently when ISIS claimed major victories in Ramadi, the capital of the Iraqi province of Anbar, and in the an­tique city of Palmyra in Syria.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al- Abadi took the opening shot. To those who were critical of the poor performance of the Iraqi Army, he replied saying that the defeat in Ramadi was a collective failure of the international community. He complained that the coalition was not doing much to help, notably by not sharing enough intelligence on its air strikes. Abadi also said the Iraqi Army needed more weap­onry.
The anti-ISIS coalition renewed its commitment to support Iraqi troops with air strikes, training and equipment.
US Deputy Secretary of State An­tony Blinken said Iraqi forces will receive anti-tank weapons. These should come in handy as one of the main problems facing the Iraqi forces is how to fend off suicide bombers, a tactic used by ISIS to wreck government defences.
“In a given month there are 400 suicide bombers entering Iraq with their vehicles,” said Abadi, who asked that the coalition prevent the flow of foreign jihadists into Iraq and to disrupt ISIS sources of financing and revenues. Every drop of oil that is sold by ISIS, la­mented Abadi, means more spill­ing of Iraqi blood.
For its part, the coalition stressed that for its military strategy to be successful, a political and national reconciliation in Iraq between Sun­nis and Shias should take place. Sunnis have been ostracised since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 and have no say in political or security matters.
The coalition endorsed an ambi­tious “action plan” to regain Anbar. The plan was put forward by Abadi and had been approved by Bagh­dad following the loss of Ramadi.
Key elements of the plan include the recruitment, training and equipping of Sunni tribal fighters in Anbar alongside Iraqi troops; the beefing up of Iraqi Army divisions in the province that have been de­pleted over 18 months of fighting; the recalling and restructuring of the police force to hold territory that will eventually be regained; and ensuring that all forces taking part in the offensive to regain the area will operate under the con­trol of the Iraqi prime minister and Iraq’s chain of command.
This plan will obviously need time and lot of money to be imple­mented. French Minister of For­eign Affairs Laurent Fabius, as well as Blinken, warned this would be a “long campaign”.
The situation in Syria was dis­cussed but apparently only be­cause ISIS, as Fabius stated, “is present in Syria and Iraq”. The French foreign minister said for success to be achieved in Iraq “a political transition was needed in Syria”. That transition he said should include “elements of the Syrian regime — but not (President Bashar) Assad — and members of the opposition”.
Participants addressed the suf­fering of the civilian population, the protection of minorities and the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq and a high-level meeting on key questions might convene in Paris next fall.
One key player in Iraq was ab­sent at the Paris meeting, and that was Iran.
As for the Russians, one of As­sad’s main allies, they have a role to play in the political transition in Syria, Fabius said.
In any case, political observers suspect that many more meetings of the coalition to review its strat­egy will probably be needed in the course of the international coali­tion fight against ISIS.