WASHINGTON, Nov. 24, 2015 —
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 today.
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
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.”
Campaign Against ISIL
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
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.
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.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)