U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the situation of ISIL in Iraq, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014, at the United Nations headquarters. Image Credit: AP

United Nations: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday expressed gratitude to a host of allies for bolstering the US-led campaign against terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, singling out the French for airstrikes and Saudi clerics for condemning Isil as an “order of Satan.”

Iran, for its part, seized on the occasion to express support for Syria, its ally in the region, with its deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, warning that any strategy that undermined the Syrian government “will be a recipe for defeat.”

The exchange showed the difficulties of assembling a coalition against a widely reviled enemy. Regional powers used the meeting, which was ostensibly designed to support the beleaguered Iraqi government in its struggle against Isil, to take swipes at one another - and Syria was the elephant in the room.

Turkey called the Syrian government of Bashar Al Assad a “patron of extremism,” while Saudi Arabia blamed it for fuelling the rise of Isil.

“Isil and the Syrian regime are but different sides of the same coin,” the Saudi ambassador, Abdullah Y Al Muallami, told the Council, using another name for Isil.

Bahrain accused some countries in the region of not doing enough to cut off the flow of funds to terrorist groups, announcing that it would host a conference in November to develop ways to combat terrorist financing.

The Syrian government’s most powerful backer, Russia, warned the coalition against expanding its military efforts to Syria. The Russian ambassador, Vitaly I. Churkin, bluntly asserted that any airstrikes without the consent of the Syrian government or a Security Council resolution would be illegal.

The United States has suggested that it is prepared to attack terrorist targets in Syria, though it has not spelled out under what circumstances or under what legal rationale.

The council session on Friday, which Kerry led, was part of a concerted diplomatic effort to rally support for the fight against Isil, which has ranged through Iraq and Syria, seized oil fields and murdered three Western hostages - two Americans and a Briton - along with countless Iraqi and Syrian civilians.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, huddled with Kerry before the meeting. It was a marked contrast to the French-American dispute in 2003 over the question of invading Iraq.

“The throat cutters of Daesh must be fought and beaten,” Fabius said, using the Arabic acronym for Isil. “Iraq and the region can only then find peace.”

The difficulties of a Syria strategy were evident in the remarks of the German foreign minister. Germany is supplying arms and training to Kurdish forces and Iraqi security forces. The minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said nothing, however, about whether his country would take part in possible military action in Syria.

“In Syria, Germany will continue to strengthen moderate voices and structures - they are the only alternative to dictatorship or terrorism,” he said.

Kerry took pains to thank a host of US allies for strengthening their domestic laws, devoting soldiers and warplanes to the effort against Isil, and countering extremist propaganda.

“I’m convinced that the fact that so many countries are represented here from so many parts of the world really underscores the clear need for all of us to come together to welcome and to support the new, inclusive government in Iraq, and, of course, to put an end to Isil’s unfettered barbarity.”

Earlier in the week, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, mocked the Arab states that Washington is gathering as a “coalition of the repentant,” because some of them had allowed Isil to thrive.

A senior Western diplomat said it may be impossible to keep Iran out of the coalition forever: “In the long run it will be difficult to find a solution without Iran.”

— New York Times News Service