Hillary Clinton outlined today a strategy to defeat the Islamic State—an “intensification and acceleration” of President Barack Obama’s strategy in Syria and Iraq combined with an effort to block the group’s access to the Internet, vital supplies and new fighters.
Appearing at the Council on Foreign Relations’ Pratt House in Manhattan, the former secretary of state compared the attacks on Paris last week to 9/11, which occurred during her tenure as senator from New York. With Mayor Bill de Blasio in the audience, she recalled the unity among Americans and between the United States and the Western world following the events in 2001.
“When the United States was hit on 9/11, our allies treated that attack against one as an attack against all,” she said. “Now it is our turn to stand beside France and all of our friends.”
Those friends included not just the nations of Europe—which she described as “way behind” in their coordination and collaboration to combat terrorism—but also Israel, Turkey, Jordan, Kurdish rebel forces and Sunni Arab tribes in Iraq. Besides an effort to “re-tool and ramp up” the Obama admistration’s assistance to “viable” Syrian Arab rebels and coalition government airstrikes, she argued for the United States to embed special operations forces in the native ground forces battling ISIS.
“We should be honest about the fact that to be successful, air strikes will have to be combined with ground forces,” she said, calling for Congress to authorize use of force against ISIS for symbolic reasons.
She also insisted that Turkey must stop bombing Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria and stop allowing foreign fighters to enter those nations through its borders. She also called for pressure on Saudi Arabia and Quatar to prevent its foreign services and private citizens from funding extremist groups internationally.
Predominantly Shi’ite Muslim Iraq, she argued, must help arm Sunni tribes and Kurdish warriors—or face the prospect of the United States and its allies arming them itself.
“Baghdad needs to accept, and even embrace arming Sunni and Kurdish forces,” she said. “We will be arming Sunni Arabs and Kurds if they don’t.”
She voiced support for a no-fly zone in northern Syria to provide “safe areas” for those fleeing violence, and the removal of dictator Bashar al-Assad in order to usher in a new government—though this would be a secondary concern to destroying the Islamic State. This would be coupled with an “intelligence surge” incorporating friendly Arab powers, Israel, Europe and the private sector to share information.
Included in this would be agreements to end cell phone encryption and shut down jihadist websites, chat rooms and social media accounts.
She lashed out at the Republican presidential candidates, whom she accused of “scoring political points” by mocking Democrats for refusing to specifically refer to the problem as “radical Islamic terrorism” and for calling for either blocking out all refugees from the crisis or only allowing in Christians.
“We are better than that,” she said. “When New York was attacked on 9/11, we had a Republican president, a Republican governor and a Republican mayor. And I worked with all of them.”
She warned in particular against alienating Muslims domestically and globally, arguing that they are crucial to combating terrorism.
“Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing to do with terrorism,” she said, even as she acknowledged that small strains of the faith encourage violence. “Our priority should be how to fight the enemy. In the end it didn’t matter what kind of terrorist we called Osama bin Laden. What mattered is we killed Osama bin Laden.”