In September, President Barack Obama will preside over a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. This marks only the second time in history that an American president has presided over the UNSC, the first being President Barack Obama.
On the agenda when Obama first took the helm of a UNSC meeting in 2009, however, was the issue of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament. The president will take on a substantially more pressing and less utopian subject when he addresses the UNSC member states next month: Western fighters joining the ranks of Islamist militants in the Middle East who could potentially plan and execute terror attacks on Western targets.
According to administration officials, who revealed Obama’s plan to chair a UNSC meeting exclusively to the liberal news outlet Think Progress, the nature of the threat and a counterterrorism strategy designed to address it will be on the agenda.
“Specifically the meeting will cover the phenomenon of foreign fighters travelling to conflict zones and joining terrorist organizations, as seen in the surge in foreigners joining ranks with such groups as Jahbat al-Nusra in Syria,” Think Progress reported.
TP does not, however, mention the terror threat posed by the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, where a July estimate suggested over 10,000 Western fighters are training for and executing attacks.
Over the weekend, Syrian opposition forces called on the United States to carry out airstrikes similar to those being executed against ISIS targets in Iraq on Islamist positions in Syria. The highly publicized announcement came seemingly out of the blue, though unconfirmed foreign affairs reporters indicated that this plea came at the request of the United States:
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) August 16, 2014
Of course, the U.S. continues to confuse its allies in Syria by not being clear about the level of American support they can expect.
The news come as the US is carrying out air strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and a day after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that aims to weaken the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s Syria branch.
Commenting on the resolution, the Syrian Coalition’s Special Representative to the UN, Najib Ghadbian, said: “The Syrian Coalition calls for targeted air strikes in Syria. Strikes should be backed up by intensive train and equip programmes for the moderate Syrian opposition forces that have been effectively fighting ISIS [Islamic State] for over a year.”
Another member of the coalition told Al Jazeera that the group was “getting different promises” from the US.
The Islamic State, an al-Qaeda splinter group, has in the recent months seized swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate.
Following the Syrian opposition’s calls for U.S. intervention against Islamist fighters, Vice reported that Assad’s forces executed their most comprehensive strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria to date. If America acts in Syria, it may well be doing so alongside the Syrian army less than one year after Obama addressed the nation about the need to execute airstrikes against pro-Assad forces.
This comes as Iran and the U.S. are reportedly working toward the same goal of rolling back ISIS in Iraq, though without any overt coordination. While “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds,” tacitly allying with Damascus and Tehran in the effort to combat ISIS would have been virtually unthinkable just months ago.