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John Kerry Testifies: ISIS 'Must Be Defeated, Period'

Image: John Kerry Testifies: ISIS 'Must Be Defeated, Period'
Secretary of State John Kerry testifies at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on "U.S. Strategy to Defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant" on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 06:25 PM

Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the Obama administration's plan to defeat the Islamic State (also called ISIS and ISIL) in testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday.

Kerry, sitting before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he did not come to rehash "old debates" on Iraq but rather to discuss an issue that all sides should be able to agree on.

"ISIL must be defeated, period, end of story," he said.

Responding to criticism that President Barack Obama hasn't acted quickly enough on the group that has taken over a vast swath of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, Kerry outlined  what he said the administration has been doing since 2013, when ISIS formed from what had formerly been al-Qaida in Iraq.

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"We do have a clear strategy to degrade, defeat and destroy ISIL, and it's not in its infancy," Kerry said. "We're not starting from scratch."

Now, he said, the United States is building a coalition of allies to transition from a defensive strategy to an offensive one.

Knowing that the country and Congress are war-weary from years of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Kerry said, "This is not the [Persian] Gulf War in 1991. It is not the Iraq War in 2003."

He reiterated Obama's statement from a Sept. 10 address to the nation that there will be no U.S. boots on the ground. Still, he said, there will be "direct and indirect military support."

ISIS, he said, is "a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement," and there will be Arab partners in the fight.

"The United States will not go it alone," Kerry said, noting that more than 50 countries already have agreed to participate or are doing something now. Not all will provide military support, he said, "but every country can do something."

Critics have blasted Obama for comparing ISIS in January to a junior varsity sports team. Since then, the group has been killing Christians and non-Sunni Muslims in its efforts to establish a caliphate, and has beheaded two American journalists and a British aid worker on videos it released on the Internet.

Committee Chairman Bob Menendez told Kerry that Obama would need a new Authorization of Use of Military Force from Congress and could not rely on the one from 2001 that allowed President George W. Bush to conduct the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"I think our goals are the same, I think we need to get you a different set of authorities," the New Jersey Democrat said.

Kerry replied the White House would welcome a new AUMF, but added the administration would act without it if necessary.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee was not pleased with that statement, telling Kerry that to do so would be "exercising the worst judgment possible."

Corker demanded details before he would approve a new authorization, including Arab countries providing ground troops. Kerry said he would share details in a classified setting.

The hearing included several members of the anti-war group Code Pink, who wore anti-war T-shirts and held up various pink signs behind Kerry as he testified.

Kerry addressed the group, noting that his first congressional testimony in 1971 was as a former member of the military critical of U.S. policies in Vietnam.

He said he respects the group's right to protest, but noted that Code Pink was founded by women opposed to war and in favor of government's giving people healthcare and good jobs.

"If that's what you believe in, then you ought to care about fighting ISIL, because ISIL is killing and raping and mutilating women," Kerry said.

ISIS does not believe women should have an education or jobs, and sells them as sex slaves, he said.

"Frankly, Code Pink and a lot of other people need to stop and think about how you stop them and deal with that," he said.

At that, one Code Pink member stood and shouted, "More invasion will not protect the homeland!"

After she was escorted out of the hearing, Kerry replied, "There's no invasion. The invasion was ISIL into Iraq. The invasion is foreign fighters into Syria. That's the invasion, and it is destructive to every possibility to building a state in that region."

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Secretary of State John Kerry laid out the Obama administration's plan to defeat the Islamic State (also called ISIS and ISIL) in testimony before a Senate committee on Wednesday.
John Kerry, ISIL, Senate, testimony
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2014-25-17
Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 06:25 PM
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