Statement as Chair of Ministerial Debate of the UN Security Council on Iraq

John Kerry
Secretary of State
New York, NY
September 19, 2014

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Your Excellency, Mr. al-Jafari, for a very important statement, and we appreciate very much your leadership and the new government’s efforts. Now it’s my privilege to make a statement in my capacity as Secretary of State of the United States.

Let me start again by thanking every single one of you for participating in this session. I’ve seen in the last weeks traveling around how extraordinarily busy everybody is and how committed to this effort everyone is, through their actions as well as through their incredibly busy schedules. So I’m convinced that the fact that so many countries are represented here from so many parts of the world really underscores the clear need for all of us to come together to welcome and to support the new, inclusive government in Iraq, and, of course, to put an end to ISIL’s unfettered barbarity.

I want to thank Secretary-General Ban and welcome our new Iraqi counterpart, Foreign Minister al-Jafari. I don’t need to remind anyone here that the last two times the eyes of the world were focused on Iraq was when its government was in confrontation with the international community, with great consequences. Today, however, we come together in support of the new Iraqi Government that has already made great strides in a short amount of time, and we must not miss this moment.

Last week, I made my second trip to Baghdad in just over two months, in order to meet with the new Iraqi Government. And I was very encouraged to hear them reaffirm their commitment to govern in the interests of all Iraqis and to finally begin to address the deep divisions that we’re all aware of, including those over energy resources, regional autonomy, and the composition of the security forces. All of these have plagued Iraq throughout its modern history. They’re also committed to empowering local communities to mobilize, to maintain security control in their area, and work with the international community to defeat ISIL.

Indeed, Iraq has responded to the ISIL threat with a spirit of unity that the country has not experienced in decades, if ever. Last month, an Iraqi Arab pilot, Major General Majid Ahmed Saadi, flew an Iraqi Air Force helicopter with a Kurdish crew and a Yezidi member of parliament and with the single goal of rescuing Yezidis on Mount Sinjar. Tragically, the helicopter crashed. General Saadi was the only one killed. But before he died, he told a New York Times reporter that the mission to rescue the Yezidis was the most important thing he had ever done in his entire life and career as an Iraqi pilot. This historic level of cooperation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces has resonated deeply in both communities.

As the President explained earlier this month – my President – ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way. In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are actually unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners, kneeling them down, tying their hands behind their back, a bullet through their heads. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists, Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Haines. ISIL simply poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East, and if left unchecked, these terrorists certainly would pose a growing threat beyond the region because they have already promised to.

Ultimately, history will judge how the world responds to this moment, to this challenge. In the face of this sort of evil, we have only one option: To confront it with a holistic global campaign that is committed and capable of degrading and destroying this terrorist threat; to confront it with a holistic global campaign that is committed and capable enough to ensure whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere, ISIL cannot find safe haven.

As President Obama has clearly explained, and as I think everyone in this room is well aware of at this point, the coalition required to eliminate ISIL is not only, or even primarily, military in nature. It must be comprehensive and include close collaboration across multiple lines of effort. It’s about taking out an entire network – decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement. The fact is there is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran, whose foreign minister is here with us here today. ISIL poses a threat to all of us, and we’re committed to working in close partnership with the new Iraqi Government and countries around the world to defeat it. That’s why I spent the past week consulting with my Iraqi counterparts and traveling in the Middle East and in Europe, building partnerships; and that’s why we were so focused on hosting this session here today.

And I thank Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s leadership in hosting their conference in Jeddah, and I thank President Hollande and Laurent Fabius in France for their leadership in hosting the conference in Paris. From each of these has come a greater and greater commitment to do what we need to do. - I have to tell you that in many of the meetings that I’ve had so far, leaders aren’t talking about if they should support our campaign against ISIL; they’re asking how. And already across each of the lines of effort that we’re focused on, we have seen more than 50 countries come forward with critical commitments.

First, on military support, countries in the region and around the world are already providing assistance both in terms of kinetic action, but also in the form of training, advising, equipping, providing logistical support, and so on. In the region, countries like Egypt have committed to significantly enhance the coordination between its forces and Iraqi and Kurdish forces. But even further from away from Iraq, countries like Australia are committing to deploying fighter jets and support aircraft and personnel. Germany, in recognition of the grave threat posed by ISIL, reversed its longstanding policy against offering lethal aid. France, last night, conducted its first air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq. These forms of assistance, provided at the request of Iraq, and with full respect for its sovereignty, are essential to combating ISIL – but they are only one part of a comprehensive approach that is required.

We’re also seeing overwhelming support when it comes to humanitarian assistance. Dozens of countries from throughout the international community have so far committed almost $1 billion to the UN-led humanitarian response in Iraq. That includes donations from countries within the region – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and elsewhere – as well as funds from countries on the other side of the world – Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and more.

We’re seeing encouraging progress in the effort to dry up ISIL’s illicit funding, as well. And Bahrain has offered to host an international conference in the near future to further develop a global action plan to counter terrorist financing. - As we’ll discuss next week at the session that President Obama will chair, we must also stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to ISIL – men and women who carry passports from countries around the world, including nearly every country represented in this room. This is yet another area where countries have already begun to take important steps, including legislation criminalizing the recruitment, preparation, and participation of their citizens in combat activities of terrorism abroad.

And finally, there is an urgent need to counter the poisonous propaganda and gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading far and wide. It is time to put an end to a group, so extreme in its rejection of modernity, that it bans math and social studies for children. It’s time to put an end to the sermons by extremists that brainwash young men to join these terrorist groups and commit mass atrocities in the name of God. This is something that leaders in the region are very focused on. Saudi Arabia’s top clerics this week came out publicly and declared terrorism a “heinous crime” under Sharia law and called ISIL in particular “the order of Satan.”

All of this is vital, because we know that in preventing an individual from joining ISIL, or from getting to the battlefield in the first place, that’s the most effective measure you can take.

But for this campaign to have any chance of success, Iraq itself – and its security forces on the front lines – must be leading the way. - That’s one of the reasons why it’s imperative that we all go the extra mile to help Iraq fully re-integrate into the region and into the global community of nations. And that’s starting to happen. Last week, the Iraqis, long estranged from their neighbors and isolated from the world, were not just invited, but were warmly welcomed at international meetings in Jeddah and Paris, and now here in New York, before the Security Council and before the entire world.

And what is different about today’s meeting – and this is one reason why we’re so grateful to so many minsters for traveling here – is that the last meetings the world did not share in the deliberation or the discussion formally as it went on; they heard afterwards. Today, the world can listen to each of the ministers, and they will understand the breadth and scope of the support for this effort.

So we’re well on our way, but that doesn’t mean that we’re where we need to be. I hope that today the progress that I’ve described will continue, and over the course of this week that more partners will come forward and more commitments to these efforts will be announced.

Make no mistake: Our work to build and enhance this coalition will continue well after this week is over. I commit that to you and President Obama firmly commits that. And one of our most respected military experts sitting right here behind me, General John Allen, who served in Afghanistan in command of our forces there for two years and also in Iraq, who knows many of the people in Iraq for his service in Anbar – has agreed to come to the State Department with a presidential appointment and oversee the U.S. effort to match up each country’s capabilities with the coalition’s total needs so the line of effort is coordinated.

I look forward to hearing from all of you in the course of this afternoon. Again, I’d just close by thanking everybody for joining this discussion, and I’m absolutely confident that through a global campaign that is comprehensive and committed, we can support the promise of the new government in Iraq and we can defeat the ISIL threat – wherever it exists.