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Arab League vows support for Iraq against ISIS - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al Sabah speaks during a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Jaafari (R) in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 19, 2014. (Reuters/Ahmed Saad)

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al Sabah speaks during a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Jaafari (R) in Baghdad, Iraq, on October 19, 2014. (Reuters/Ahmed Saad)

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Arab league Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said the organization and its members would “defend all countries against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) advance” on Sunday, on a visit to Iraq’s capital.

Speaking at a press conference to mark the arrival of an Arab League delegation to Iraq including the foreign ministers of Kuwait and Mauritania, Elaraby also said that Arab countries were joining forces to stem the flow of ISIS sympathizers traveling from across the region to join the group, and called for a wide-ranging campaign against it.

“Military confrontation is only part of the fight terrorism and extremist ideology,” he said, adding that the fight must also include “a comprehensive theological, intellectual and economic confrontation.”

At the same news conference, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari said that Iraq welcomed aid from fellow Arab League members, but said Baghdad “has not requested and will not request” the intervention of Arab or other ground troops on its territory as part of the fight against ISIS.

Speaking following meetings with Elaraby, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al Sabah, and Mauritanian Foreign Minister Ahmed Ould Teguedi, Jaafari said Baghdad was “ready to receive all forms of assistance [in its fight against ISIS] except foreign ground troops on its territory.”

He added his country had “reiterated on more than one occasion the necessity of using other forms of assistance comprised of support and armament [of Iraqi troops], and providing [the Iraqi army] with strategic intelligence.”

Also speaking at the conference, Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Al-Khalid expressed his country’s support of and solidarity with Baghdad in its fight against ISIS, adding that Arab countries, which he said formed the “core” of the international coalition against the extremist group, were ready to “work together to confront the dangers of terrorism” and were all concerned with the welfare of the country and the importance of its “unity and sovereignty.”

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat regarding Kuwait’s position toward its larger and sometimes troublesome neighbor, Khalid Abd Al-Ilah, a political science professor at the University of Baghdad, said Kuwait was now taking the lead among Arab countries on the Iraq issue, especially in light of its improved relations with Baghdad in recent years and its presiding over the Arab League this year.

Echoing comments from Arab League chief Elaraby, he added there was currently a plan being put forward by the organization to confront ISIS “intellectually, economically and societally.”

Speaking of the change in general Arab policies toward Iraq in recent years, he said: “The Arabs, after having isolated Iraq for so long, now realize they made a huge mistake in wronging Iraq, having left it in the hands of other regional players such as Iran and Turkey.”

Arab countries were only now making amends, he said, since they too were facing difficulties of the same kind, “which has made them all too aware now of the danger that faces them [and Iraq].”

He added: “The Arabs have realized now at last that there is a plan to fragment the region which will come at their expense and at the expense of the whole region, and which will require drawing an entirely new political map of the Middle East.”