Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
June 2, 2015
DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much for the meeting and especially for France’s leadership in this coalition against Daesh. As the foreign minister described, we had a very good discussion today, a candid discussion that was honest about the gains that we’ve made as well as the setbacks that we’ve incurred. I think we heard a range of views from our partners, but I took away a number of points similar to the ones the foreign minister underscored.
First, this will be, as we have said, a long campaign. But we will succeed if we remain united, determined, and focused. And we are united, determined, and focused. The coalition is the most effective vehicle for getting to the success that we seek.
Second, every line of effort in what we’re doing is critical and mutually reinforcing: the military campaign, but also the efforts we’re making against foreign fighters, against financing, to combat the narrative that Daesh is putting out there, the humanitarian situation, and stabilization of newly liberated communities.
Third, we have made real gains in the nine months since this coalition has come together. Daesh now controls 25 percent less territory in Iraq than it did when this first started, and it has lost significant numbers of men and materiel. And we have proof of concept that what we’re doing works around Al Asad, where we’re present, and in the north with the Kurdish forces.
But fourth, we also acknowledge that Daesh remains extremely resilient, ruthless, and capable of taking the initiative. We have to learn from and act on our setbacks. In Iraq right now, we have the right strategy: a combination of coalition airstrikes; training, equipping, assisting; and effective local partners. That is the winning strategy, but only if both sides of the equation are present.
What we heard today is that Prime Minister Abadi’s side of the equation is present and adjusting to the challenges that we’re seeing in places like Anbar. He described for us in detail the Anbar action plan that he recently passed through his council of ministers, and I think we concluded that it is the right plan both militarily and politically for Iraq at this time.
We support the plan. It calls for accelerating the training and equipping of local tribes in coordination with Anbar authorities, strengthening the provision of and streamlining the provision of weapons, expanding recruitment into the Iraqi Army, recalling and refitting the local police, ensuring that all associated forces in Iraq act under Iraqi command, and supporting a new development fund for stabilization to get immediate assistance to areas that are cleared of Daesh.
The prime minister knows, as we do and as we’ve heard him say, that the struggle against Daesh must be won by the Iraqi people, just as Syrians must ultimately lead the fight in their land. We must therefore do all that we can as quickly as we can to help Iraq bring fully capable and inclusive national security forces that will operate professionally and under a unified chain of command.
One immediate step that we’re taking is to ship anti-tank rockets for use against the kind of suicide vehicles that were deployed in Ramadi to such terrible effect. The first tranche of these rockets will arrive as early as this week, and we’re also continuing, of course, our air missions in Anbar and elsewhere to keep the pressure on Daesh. And we are moving forward as well and we heard good reports today with each of the lines of effort that are at the heart of the work of this coalition: to shrink Daesh’s territory, to cut its funding, to curb its recruiting, and to expose the gigantic gap between what Daesh claims to be and what it actually is.
We’re also doing all that we can to aid the region’s victims of violence, who include millions of refugees and displaced persons from both Syria and Iraq. The United States has provided $3.7 billion in humanitarian aid to those affected by the war in Syria, and more than $407 million for displaced Iraqis. The magnitude and duration of the regional crisis have stretched the global response capabilities to its limits, but there are times – and this is one of them – when normal limitations have to be set aside. More funds are urgently needed to alleviate suffering and shield the innocent from harm.
Finally, we share the emphasis that Foreign Minister Fabius placed on the urgency of a political transition in Syria, and we will redouble our efforts to help achieve it. It becomes clearer every single day that Daesh stands for nothing and depends on people who will fall for anything. I emerged from this meeting confident that we will defeat them through our unity, our determination, and our commitment to create a future of opportunity and peace for people in Iraq, in Syria, and indeed in the entire region.