- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2014

France will join the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State by helping the U.S. conduct airstrikes in Iraq, President Obama said Thursday night as he basked in a successful vote in Congress giving him permission to arm and train Syrian rebels.

As Mr. Obama prepares to open up the new front in Syria, he said more than 40 countries have agreed to help out in some way, including Arab nations, who are seen as critical to convincing Muslims this fight is not an attack against their religion.

“With this new effort we’ll provide training and equipment to help [the rebels] grow stronger and take on ISIL terrorists inside Syria,” Mr. Obama said, using one of the acronyms for the Islamic State group.

Minutes before he spoke, the Senate gave final approval to a year-end spending bill that included the permission to arm and train the rebels. The administration hopes the rebels will take the fight to the Islamic State in Syria, opening up a new front in addition to Iraqi troops and American air power pushing back against the insurgents’ gains in Iraq.

“The strong bipartisan support in Congress for this new training effort shows the world that Americans are united in confronting the threat from ISIL which has slaughtered so many innocent civilians,” Mr. Obama said.

The president, who a year ago had said the terrorist threat was receding and the core of al Qaeda was “on the path to defeat,” has now declared the Islamic State to be part of al Qaeda and has said they pose a serious threat to U.S. security.

On Thursday, he continued the tough talk he began earlier this month, vowing swift payback for the terrorists, particularly after the brutal beheadings of two American journalists and a British aid worker, which the terrorists recorded on video and released on the Internet.

“These terrorists thought they could fight us, or intimidate us, or cause us to shrink from the world, but today they’re learning the same hard lesson of petty tyrants and terrorists who’ve gone before: As Americans we do not give in to fear,” he said. “When you harm our citizens, when you threaten the United States, when you threaten our allies, it doesn’t divide us, it unites us.”

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