The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris represented an assault on all liberal democracies, and all nations must cooperate to destroy ISIL, President Barack Obama said at the White House Nov. 24.
Obama was joined by French President Francois Hollande. The two leaders spoke following an Oval Office meeting. The United States and France, Obama said, will work closely together with like-minded nations to counter the terrorist group.
The U.S. and France have been through much together, Obama noted. The nations fought together during World War I, defeated fascism in World War II and fought a long — and ultimately successful — Cold War against communism.
“Each and every time, we prevailed,” Obama said. “We have prevailed because our way of life is stronger, because we stay united.”
ISIL’s attacks in Paris killed 130 people from 20 different countries and wounded more than 350. It was the latest in a series of attacks by the terrorist group in locations that include Denmark, Tunisia, Lebanon, Kuwait, Turkey and Egypt. ISIL also claimed credit for a bombing that downed a Russian airliner in the Sinai.
“We are here today to declare that the United States and France stand united in total solidarity to deliver justice to these terrorists and those who sent them and to defend our nations,” Obama said.
ISIL’s murderous ideology poses a serious threat, the president said.
“It cannot be tolerated. It must be destroyed. And we must do it together,” Obama said. “This is the unity of purpose that brings us here today.”
The United States and France were already working with nine other nations against ISIL. Coalition airmen have launched more than 8,000 strikes and, in cooperation with local Kurdish, Iraqi and Syrian forces, have pushed the terror group back.
“Today, President Hollande and I agree that our nations must do even more together,” Obama said. “U.S. assistance has supported recent French strikes in Syria and we’re going to keep stepping up that coordination.”
The two leaders agreed that Russian assistance to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is lengthening the conflict and has helped to fuel the rise of ISIL. “We agree that Russia could play a more constructive role if it were to shift the focus of its strikes to defeating ISIL,” the president said.
He called on Russia to support a cease-fire and a political transition away from Assad.
Defending the nation
Obama called on the American people to not overreact to recent ISIL attacks. “What happened in Paris is truly horrific,” he said. “I understand that people worry that something similar could happen here. I want you to know that we will continue to do everything in our power to defend our nation.”
All Americans have a role to play in responding to terror threats, the president said.
“Groups like ISIL cannot defeat us on the battlefield, so they try to terrorize us at home, (by making attacks) against soft targets, against civilians, against innocent people,” he said. “Even as we are vigilant, we cannot and we will not succumb to fear nor can we allow fear to divide us, for that is how terrorists win. We cannot give them the victory of changing how we go about living our lives.”
America has been the target of terrorists and Americans have proven they will not be terrorized, the president said.
“I say all this because another part of being vigilant, another part of defeating terrorists like ISIL, is upholding the rights and freedoms that define our two great republics,” Obama said. “And that includes freedom of religion. That includes equality before the law.
“There have been times in our history, in moments of fear, when we have failed to uphold our highest ideals and it has been to our lasting regret,” he continued. “We must uphold our ideals now. Each of us, all of us, must show that America is strengthened by people of every faith and every background.”
Obama also spoke on the Turkish downing of a Russian military jet near its border with Syria.
“Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace,” Obama said. “I think it’s very important right now for us to make sure that both the Russians and the Turks are talking to each other, (to) find out exactly what happened, and take measures to discourage any kind of escalation.”
“I do think that this points to an ongoing problem with the Russian operations in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border and they are going after moderate opposition that are supported by not only Turkey but a wide range of countries,” the president noted.