Tillerson projects ‘large-scale military response’ in anti-IS summit

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the meeting of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS on Wednesday (Photo: Cliff Owen/AP Photo).

Officials from 68 countries and organisations gathered for a two-day summit to coordinate plans to fight the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) in Washington on Wednesday.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened the meeting of the Global Coalition Against Daesh (the Arabic acronym of the Islamic State), the first of its kind under the Trump administration. “The expansion of ISIS has necessitated a large-scale military response, and our offensive measures are reclaiming areas in Iraq and Syria in which ISIS has had a large and destructive footprint. Our end goal in this phase is the regional elimination of ISIS through military force,” Tillerson said making clear that the Trump administration will rely on a military outlook.

In his 20-minute speech, Tillerson said it was as important to fight IS online “as aggressively as we would on the ground” and that it was necessary to “look this enemy’s ideology in the eyes for what it is: A warped interpretation of Islam that threatens all of our people.” He also dismissed positions that claim poverty and a lack of opportunities are responsible for radicalisation and recruitment, claiming that many IS fighters “come from middle-class or even upper-class backgrounds, drawn to a radical and false utopian vision that purports to be based upon the Qur’an.”

“Muslim partners and leaders of their faith must combat this perverse ideological message. And we are grateful that so many have and are ready to take up this responsibility,” he said, stressing the importance of efforts by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

While Tillerson said that the United States will increase pressure on IS and al-Qaeda and “work to establish interim zones of stability, through ceasefires, to allow refugees to return home,” he did not explain how these efforts would look like and participants had hoped for a clearer explanation of the strategy.

“We’ve been asking for specific answers for a couple of weeks from the new administration,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters adding that he had been told the Trump administration needed more time before presenting the options to the US President.

The Syrian government and its allies, Russia and Iran, are not part of the global coalition.