US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned the "Islamic State" that "we are not intimidated." Kerry spoke a day after the White House confirmed the death of an American aid worker in an IS beheading video.
On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the brutality of the "Islamic State" (IS) showed that the United States must remain deeply engaged in the Middle East.
In fact, the bulk of Kerry's comments at an annual forum in Washington hosted by the publisher of Foreign Policy magazine sought to underline the case for broad US involvement in the region.
"We have to be deeply engaged - deeply engaged - in this region, because it is directly in the interest of our national security and our economy, and it is also in keeping of who we are," Kerry said on Monday. "The United States does not go in search of enemies in the Middle East. There are times, however, and this is one, when enemies come in search of us."
IS, which controls much of northern Syria and Iraq, has killed three Americans - two journalists and now Abdul-Rahman Kassig, a former US Army Ranger - and two British aid workers in videos made for international media, and hundreds of Arabs with far less fanfare.
The video just released, for example, shows a militant boasting about killing Kassig, who went by the first name Peter until his conversion to Islam in captivity, and also shows IS fighters beheading about 15 Syrian soldiers much more anonymously.
"This conflict is between civilization itself and barbarism," Kerry told the forum in Washington. "If we don't defeat ISIL, there will be no viable future for the Middle East," he added, using an alternative acronym for the group's former name: the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Kerry also defended the US role in efforts against IS, saying that the group had "become a threat to America's core interests."
Left unchecked, Kerry said, IS could expand its network worldwide, a stated goal of the group's self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Already, he added, IS had seized more land and resources "than al Qaeda ever had on its best day of its existence."
IS "leaders assume that the world will be too intimidated to oppose them," Kerry said. "But let us be clear: We are not intimidated."
Immediately after the speech Kerry headed to London, where he will hold talks with European and Middle Eastern officials on negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, as well as the international conflict with IS.
mkg/se (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)