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More Allies Express Desire To Help Fight Against ISIS


Western and Middle Eastern leaders are finally trying to coordinate their efforts against ISIS. Until now, the extremist group has thrived on failure. The failure to stop Syria's civil war gave them an opening. The failure to properly govern Iraq gave them room to expand. Now representatives of more than two dozen nations are meeting in Paris, debating on how they might succeed. The host, French President Francois Hollande, says the group is a global threat. NPR's Deborah Amos has been covering ISIS from southern Turkey, near the Syrian border. She's on the line. Hi, Deb.


INSKEEP: So Secretary of State John Kerry is at this meeting. There are Western nations there. Also, Arab nations are there, Iraq and Syria's neighbors. What will they be doing?

AMOS: Well, Kerry was on a whirlwind tour this weekend. And 10 Arab governments signed on to this coalition. Some of them said that they would join a bombing campaign, which would include bombing in Syria. They also talked about boots on the ground. A little ahead of where the coalition is right now, but they signed a communique in Jidda. They said we will do our share. I think this support was galvanized by the military prowess of ISIS and another gruesome video that was released this weekend - the murder of another Western hostage, the third.

INSKEEP: So Arab nations are willing to commit forces here. What makes them willing to go as far as they are saying they're going to go?

AMOS: Well, I think that they are testing White House resolve. You know, when Kerry first started talking - and the president first talking about the coalition - you saw some hesitation in Arab capitals. How far is Obama willing to go? They wanted to know. Whatever Kerry told them over the weekend seemed to convince them. And the Saudi shift is the most striking. They're now talking about training bases for Syrian rebels. And according to Saudi sources, the Saudis have pledged to open up an embassy in Baghdad, to send an ambassador there. They have not done that since 2003, certainly not under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who they never got along with. So this is a message from the Saudis that we are in, we are there to help Iraq. And that is very new.

INSKEEP: So some rich and influential countries joining this fight in a big way, but what about the country that actually shares a border with ISIS-controlled territory, the country where you are, Turkey?

AMOS: Well, when Secretary of State Kerry was here last week, talks with the Turks were very contentious. The U.S. is pressing Turkey to stop ISIS oil smuggling, which, by many reports, they are doing across the Turkish border, across the Iraqi border. Today, Turkey's oil minister said that was a lie. There is no smuggled oil coming out of Syria across Turkey. They have been reluctant to be publicly associated with this coalition. They have 49 Turkish diplomats who are held hostage in Mosul by ISIS. There are families there; there are children among those hostages, so Turkey has really not committed. They have not allowed the U.S. to use the Incirlik airbase here for any military strikes - yes for reconnaissance, no for military. Turkey's a NATO member, and there is a lot of pressure on them to join. But so far they are very reluctant.

INSKEEP: Is there a sense among these nations meeting today what the endgame is, how they would degrade and destroy ISIS, to use President Obama's phrase of a few days ago?

AMOS: You know, this coalition is really moving very fast. And I think the American officials have been saying they don't want to get the campaign ahead of what's going on the ground. The air campaign needs partners. You have that in northern Iraq; you have it with Kurdish fighters; you have it with the Iraqi Army. And now there's talk of activating Sunni tribes in Iraq, creating a National Guard so you get buy-in from Sunni tribes.

It's still difficult in Syria. Local partners would have to be - Syrian rebels on the ground - they are weak, they are disorganized. There is talk in Washington of stepping up funding and training. The question is how long would that take? Will those Syrian rebels survive? They are also fighting ISIS on the ground, as well as fighting the Syrian regime.

INSKEEP: NPR's Deborah Amos in southern Turkey. Thanks very much.

AMOS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.