- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2014

BALTIMORE — While decrying the death and violence the Islamic State has brought across Syria and Iraq, President Obama said Friday that there is actually a “silver lining” to the militant group’s rise.

Speaking at a Democratic party fundraiser in Baltimore, the president said the Islamic State’s sheer brutality — evidenced by the beheadings of two American journalists, the murders of religious minorities and other horrific acts — should convince the rest of the Arab world that Islamist extremism must be confronted and defeated.

“What gives me confidence is that we’re on the right side of history here. What also is a silver lining in the terrible mayhem that ISIL has brought throughout the region is it has focused attention, I think for the first time in a long time in the Muslim world, on … the need to distance from and ultimately snuff out this brand of Islamic extremism,” he said, referring to the Islamic State by one of its alternate names.

But the abhorrent actions of the Islamic State aren’t the only reason the Arab world will join with the U.S. and stand up against extremism, according to the president. In his weekly address on Saturday, Mr. Obama said that his pledge to not send American ground forces into Iraq or Syria will fuel cooperation and good will.

“American military power is unmatched, but this can’t be America’s fight alone. And the best way to defeat a group like ISIL isn’t by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East. That wouldn’t serve our interests. In fact, it would only risk fueling extremism even more,” he said. “Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition. This week, Arab nations agreed to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi government and to do their part in the fight against ISIL, including aspects of the military campaign. Saudi Arabia will join the effort to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces.”

Friday night’s fundraiser was held at the Baltimore home of Howard Friedman, former president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, commonly known as AIPAC. Mr. Friedman praised the president for “standing by Israel” and fighting terrorism.

The president then spoke for about 10 minutes before beginning a question-and-answer session, which was closed to the press.

Mr. Obama focused much of his brief speech on foreign policy challenges and reiterated what he told the nation Wednesday night — his administration is committed to destroying the Islamic State.

To do that, the president said the U.S. will build a coalition that, over time, won’t rely solely on America to deal with terrorist threats and Islamist extremism.

“We’re going to be able to build the kind of coalition that allows us to lead but also isn’t entirely dependent on what we do,” he said. “That, I think is a measure of how we are going to approach these problems, because they’re not going to go away immediately. We will defeat ISIL, but there will always be these threats of terrorism.”

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