US seeks ‘coalition of willing’ to force back IS

Islamic State yesterday released images of Syrian captives it claims to have massacred. Picture: Getty
Islamic State yesterday released images of Syrian captives it claims to have massacred. Picture: Getty
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THE United States is intensifying its push to build an international campaign against Islamic State (IS) jihadist fighters in Iraq and Syria, including recruiting partners for potential joint military action, White House officials have confirmed.

Among the potential candidates are the UK and Australia.

Germany said it was in talks with the US and other international partners about possible military action against IS but made clear it would not participate.

Yesterday Downing Street said the UK joining strikes against jihadists has not been requested and is not presently under discussion.

The US has launched scores of bombing attacks on IS militants in northern Iraq in a bid to assist Kurdish and Iraqi forces trying to drive them back.

Reports yesterday said the Pentagon had been exploring whether western allies such as the UK and Australia, and allied Gulf states, would assist in a broader campaign in Syria against IS, which was formerly known as Isis or Isil (the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant).

But a No10 spokeswoman said: “There’s been no request for us to deliver air strikes and this is not something under discussion at the moment.

“Our focus remains on supporting the Iraq government and Kurdish forces so they can counter the threat posed by Isil, for example with the visit of our security envoy to Iraq this week and the provision of supplies to Kurdish forces.”

The report suggested US President Barack Obama asked the Pentagon to carry out a “scoping exercise” with allies to assess their reaction.

Nato members are due to gather at Celtic Manor, south Wales, on 4-5 September, for a ­summit.

The House of Commons rejected UK bombing in Syria in a ­historic vote almost exactly a year ago when Prime Minister David Cameron sought approval for military strikes in response to chemical attacks.

Last night US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “We are working with our partners and asking how they might be able to contribute. There are a range of ways to contribute: humanitarian, military, intelligence, diplomatic.”

It is unclear how many nations will sign up. Some such as trusted ally Britain harbour bitter memories of joining the US-led “coalition of the willing” in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that included troops from 38 ­nations.

Others such as France refused to join the action. The claims of the existence of weapons of mass destruction which spurred the coalition to act were found to be false.

The US, the officials said, could act alone if necessary against the militants, who have seized a third of Iraq and of Syria, declared open war against the West and want to establish a caliphate to spread jihadism in the heart of the Arab world.

Senior White House aides met this week to discuss a strategy for expanding its assault on IS, including the possibility of air strikes on the militants’ stronghold in eastern Syria – an escalation that would be riskier than the current US campaign in Iraq.

While Iraq’s government welcomed the role of US war planes to attack the militants, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has warned that any strikes conducted without its permission would be considered an act of aggression, potentially plunging any US-led coalition into a broader conflict with Syria.