Speaking one day after the Islamist State released video of the beheading of another American journalist, President Barack Obama offered mixed messages on whether the United States’ goal is to defeat or to contain the Sunni militant group.
During a joint press conference with Estonian President Hendrik Ives on Wednesday, Obama used the phrase “destroy” in talking about the Islamic State, but later said the United States wanted to make it a “manageable problem.” The two phrases came one week after Obama said the U.S. did not yet have a strategy to defeat the terror group.
“Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat, not just to Iraq, but also the region and to the United States,” Obama said. “The first phase has been to make sure that we’ve got an Iraqi government that’s in place and that we are blunting the momentum that ISIL was carrying out. And the airstrikes have done that. But now what we need to do is make sure that we’ve got the regional strategy in place that can support an ongoing effort — not just in the air but on the ground — to move that forward.”
But in response to a later question, Obama seemed to pull back.
“We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink ISIL’s sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities to the point where it is a manageable problem,” he said. “And the question is going to be making sure we’ve got the right strategy, but also making sure that we’ve got the international will to do it.”
Underlying both responses was the president’s desire to maintain international alliances to combat the Islamic State.
“What we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world along with the international community to isolate this cancer, this particular brand of extremism that is, first and foremost, destructive to the Muslim world and the Arab world and North Africa, and the people who live there,” he said.
Speaking about Sotloff, Obama said the Islamic State has “already failed” and the U.S. “will not be intimidated.”
“Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism,” Obama said. “We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.”
(H/T: ABC News)