09/11/2014, 00.00
US-IRAQ-ISLAM
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Obama calls Saudi King before his speech against the Islamic state

An expansion of air raids in Iraq and in Syria; checks on the financing and recruitment of IS militiamen; aid to refugees. There is also a program to train and arm anti-Assad rebels.

Washington (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A media barrage culminated last night in President Barack Obama's speech to the nation promising to expand the offensive against the Islamic state (IS). In a 15-minute message, broadcast at primetime (9 pm), on the eve of 9/11 (the anniversary of the attack on New York's Twin Towers), Obama guaranteed a systematic campaign of airstrikes against IS targets "wherever they are", in Iraq or in Syria; more counter-terrorism efforts to cut off the group's funding and help stem the flow of fighters into the Middle East and increased aid to refugees.

All this will happen without "being dragged into another ground war", in short no troops will be sent on the ground. There will be only 475 new military experts to advise the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga in their fight against the Islamists.

Before his speech, Obama spoke on the phone with Saudi King Abdullah and stressed that Saudi Arabia is a key member of the international coalition that the United States wants to build against the jihadist movement. In fact today, the Secretary of State, John Kerry, will visit the king in Riyadh.

The Obama plan seems to be tailored to the Saudi expectations. The Arabian monarchy sees IS as its greatest enemy, putting a strain on their government from the political and religious perspective. But they are also competing with "secular" governments (even if dictatorial), such as Syria, and with "Shiite" governments like Iran, with its populist Islamic policy.

Perhaps this is why Obama, has ruled out Syria and Iran in his anti-IS coalition. But he went even further: under his new strategy he has asked Congress to authorize the Department of Defense to train and fund the rebel forces fighting Assad, to the tune of 500 million dollars. This should bolster their battle against the former Isis, but at the same time strengthen their fight against Damascus.

All this perhaps will - as the president said - "reduce and eventually destroy" the militants of the Islamic state, but it will make the situation in the Middle East even more complicated and tense.

 

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