Iraq will do whatever is necessary to eliminate the Islamic State group within a year, President Fuad Masum said in an address to fellow Arab leaders at the 26th Arab League Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Saturday. The meeting is being held as Yemen continues to spiral into a chaotic civil war and the Islamic State group remains operational, but diminished, in both Syria and Iraq.
“We will eliminate the IS group within a year. … The armed forces will soon regain control of all Iraq,” Masum said, as Ahram Online reported. “Our people [wait] for all forms of support from our Arab brothers.”
The United States and a coalition of Arab states began an air campaign against the Islamic State group last June, after the Iraqi military suffered a number of defeats against the group as it pushed toward Baghdad. The airstrikes, along with Iraqi and Kurdish victories on the ground, have since knocked back the militant group, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL. Iraqi forces are now battling for key cities in the north, such as Tikrit.
Masum also voiced opposition to international intervention in Yemen, where Shiite Houthi militants have largely pushed out government forces loyal to President Abdel Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled the country earlier this week. Masum and his foreign minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, advocated for a peace-driven approach. A coalition of 10 Arab states led by Saudi Arabia began an air campaign against Houthi rebel forces late Thursday night. Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby voiced support for Hadi’s Sunni government.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who contributed both air and naval elements to the Saudi-led coalition, offered a thinly veiled criticism toward Iran for its alleged support of the Shiite rebels and called for a pan-Arab unitary military force to be tasked with combating regional threats in the Middle East. Iraq has received significant military assistance from Iran in the fight against the Islamic State group, but it also receives support from Sunni Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia, complicating Iraq’s foreign policy options regarding the Yemeni conflict.
The 26th Arab League Summit this weekend brings together leaders of 22 nations across the Middle East and Africa. With Yemen in turmoil, the situation in Syria not improving and more tension than ever between Iran, Israel and Arab states, the leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh seem to have their work cut out for them.