Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials told The New York Times on Sunday.
The offer was disclosed by American officials traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry, who is approaching the end of a weeklong trip that was intended to mobilize international support for the campaign against ISIS.
“There have been offers both to Centcom and to the Iraqis of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” said one of the officials, who used the acronym for the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East.
Kerry, who is in Paris to attend an international conference the French are hosting on Monday on providing aid to the new Iraqi government, has already visited Baghdad; Amman, Jordan; Jidda, Saudi Arabia; Ankara, Turkey; and Cairo.
During Kerry’s stop in Jeddah on Thursday, 10 Arab countries joined the United States in issuing a communiqué that endorsed efforts to confront and ultimately “destroy” IS, including military action to which nations would contribute “as appropriate,” according to The New York Times.
American officials said that the communiqué should be interpreted as meaning that some, but not all, of the 10 Arab countries would play a role in the military effort.
The United States has a broad definition of what it would mean to contribute to the military campaign.
“Providing arms could be contributing to the military campaign,” said a second State Department official. “Any sort of training activity would be contributing to the military campaign.”
The State Department officials, who asked not to be identified under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters, did not say which Arab nations had offered to carry out airstrikes, and there are also other ways Arab nations could participate in an air campaign against IS without dropping bombs, such as flying arms to Erbil in the Kurdistan region or Baghdad, conducting reconnaissance flights or providing logistical support and refueling.
The officials told The New York Times the Arab offers were under discussion.
“I don’t want to leave you with the impression that these Arab members haven’t offered to do airstrikes because several of them have,” said the first State Department official.
“The Iraqis would have to be a major participant in that decision,” the official added. “It has to be well structured and organized.”
The U.S. is currently trying to build an international coalition that will take on IS, as outlined by President Barack Obama in a speech he gave last week.
Britain has already declared it will not participate in any airstrikes on Syria but otherwise is ruling nothing out as it considers how to support Obama’s plan to root out IS.
France has indicated its willingness to participate in airstrikes against IS in Iraq, but its Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has also said that a different strategy would be needed in Syria.