US gains more support for anti-jihadist coalition

The United States has harnessed more support for an international fight against Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria.

AFP| Updated: Sep 25, 2014, 04:10 AM IST

Washington: The United States has harnessed more support for an international fight against Islamist extremists in Iraq and Syria.

With President Barack Obama on Wednesday urging the world to unite to defeat the jihadist "network of death," dozens of nations have now answered the call, some in the form of new air strikes in Syria.

Jihadists from the Islamic State group have murdered thousands and declared a Muslim caliphate. 

More than 50 countries -- mainly Western powers or Middle Eastern allies -- have committed to form a bulwark against the movement, the State Department said. 

Gulf states Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates took the spotlight Tuesday when they participated in US-led air strikes against IS forces in Syria.

Jordan joined the fight Wednesday, its warplanes carrying out a bombing raid in Syria.

Thirty of the participating states and organizations took part in a Paris conference this month and agreed to support the Iraqi government "by any means necessary."

Even though Iran and the United States support Iraqi forces fighting IS, Tehran and Washington have both said they will not cooperate with the other. Syria is also a non-participant.
In addition to bombings in Syria, the United States has conducted 198 air strikes against IS targets in Iraq since August 8 and it has more than 800 military personnel to safeguard its Baghdad embassy and to assist Iraq`s army. 

It is talking with Iraq`s new government about "accelerating efforts," including additional training and equipping of Iraqi Security Forces.

Britain`s parliament stood poised to vote Friday on whether to join in the air strikes, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday after his Iraqi counterpart Haidar Al-Abadi requested the action.

Leaders of Britain`s main parties have indicated their support.

London has also committed to ship £1.6 million ($2.6 million) in heavy machine guns to Kurdish forces.

France launched its first air strike Friday against IS positions in Iraq. Paris had already begun reconnaissance flights and sent weapons to Kurds fighting IS, a decade after it famously refused to back the US-led invasion of Iraq.

But President Francois Hollande was clear France would not intervene in Syria.

Belgium and the Netherlands committed F-16s jets to the effort Wednesday, but senior officials in both countries stressed deployments would be limited to Iraq.

"The Netherlands will make six F-16s available for the first phase of the campaign, for one year," Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher said.

Canada has deployed 69 special forces soldiers to Iraq to advise and assist security forces, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he may scale up Canada`s anti-terror fight after IS threatened attacks on Canadians.

Australia`s military transport planes have delivered weapons to Kurdish forces. Canberra insists it will not send combat soldiers to Iraq, but would deploy 600 troops to United Arab Emirates, a regional Washington ally.

The Czech Republic has offered weapons to the Iraqi army and training to Kurdish forces.

Germany said it will provide military equipment and aid to Kurds, but on Sunday it ruled out participating in air strikes or any ground offensive against IS.

Albania, Italy and Poland have sent military equipment to Kurdish forces, and Warsaw also delivered tons of assistance to Christian and Yezidi refugees via its C-130 aircraft.

Estonia is donating one million artillery shells and Denmark`s parliament has authorized its planes to resupply Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

The Philippines is prepared to "do its part" in an alliance, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told AFP, but no further details have been given.
Japan has committed $7.8 million in aid through the UN humanitarian office OCHA and has pledged to assist the new Iraqi government.

Switzerland has pledged more than $10 million in aid to OCHA. Norway committed $6 million, Denmark $3.8 million and Australia $4.6 million. 

Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, South Korea and Spain have also pledged assistance.

Turkey is providing 100 truck loads of aid and a refugee camp near the Iraqi border. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday Ankara could provide military or logistical support for the anti-IS campaign.
A crucial element to the coalition are Arab and Gulf states, and at least 10 Arab nations have agreed to back the coalition.

Several Gulf oil monarchies, fearing jihadist threats at their doorsteps, joined the US in air strikes Tuesday, with Jordan flying sorties Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia, whose highest religious authority branded IS Islam`s "number one enemy," has committed $500 million to the UN refugee agency, according to the State Department.

Bahrain, home to the US Fifth Fleet, is also providing logistical support. Kuwait, which has contributed $10 million in humanitarian assistance, could also lend use of its military facilities.

Oman has pledged "to play its part" in the battle against IS, without giving details.

Qatar tightened rules on charities that send money abroad or receive foreign financing, and its Al-Udeid Air Base hosts Centcom, the US military command responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia.

Regional US ally Egypt has said it will support Washington`s efforts to repel IS, but Cairo said its involvement "must be under a UN mandate."