Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has declared in her second major foreign policy speech that it was time to begin a new phase and intensify and broaden efforts to "defeat and destroy" the Islamic State (Isis). This would require immediate deployment of the special operations force President Barack Obama has already authorised and prepare to beef up the ground troops, she said.
Obama has largely referred to "containing" the IS, while calling ground invasion a mistake in what he differentiates from conventional warfare.
Clinton also stressed the need for more effective and renewed coalition air strikes and an immediate intelligence surge in the region. Noting the yearlong coalition efforts against the IS, Clinton told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York: "We have to break the group's momentum, and then its back. Our goal is not to deter or contain Isis but to defeat and destroy Isis. This is a worldwide fight, and America must lead it."
Clinton had recently refused to lend her support for a formal declaration of war against the IS which some members of Congress had pushed for. But that was before the Paris attacks. In her latest speech, she sought American leadership in the "fight" against the IS. "Only the United States can mobilise common action on a global scale. And that's exactly what we need. The entire world must be part of this fight, but we must lead it."
Calling for the creation of a second Sunni awakening, Clinton said there was need to put sustained pressure on the government in Baghdad to get its political house in order and arm the forces fighting the IS. But failing that, "the coalition should do so directly".
In Syria there was a need to push simultaneously for a political solution to the civil war and pave the way for a new government with new leadership, and also to encourage more Syrians to take on the Isis, she said. The forces fighting the militants in Iraq and Syria must be supported by the US in terms of forces and training.
However, Clinton stopped short of advocating a repeat of the Iraqi occupation scenario with 100,000 American troops on foreign lands. It is for local people and nations to secure their own communities, she stressed, adding that the US can and should help these ground forces in their mission. She was also specific about a no-fly zone for northern Syria to cut off supply lines of resources and foreign fighters to Isis.
Islam not the adversary
Reiterating her views of terrorists as radical Islamists, Clinton said Islam was not the adversary. "We are in a contest of ideas against an ideology of hate, and we have to win. Let's be clear, though. Islam is not our adversary. Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism."
In the light of recent heated debates in the US on restricting Syrian refugee inflow to Christians, Clinton said: "We cannot allow terrorists to intimidate us into abandoning our values and our humanitarian obligations. Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee — that is just not who we are."
The presidential candidate did not spare Iran in her speech, choosing to club the country with the IS for its support for terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Raising "the confidence of our Arab partners and raising the costs to Iran for bad behaviour" could help in the fight against the IS, Clinton said, while calling on the Saudis, the Qataris, and others to stop citizens from directly funding extremist organizations, "as well as the schools and mosques around the world that have set too many young people on a path to radicalisation".