Obama leads UN summit vs ‘Un-Islamic Non-State’

Ayee Macaraig
The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts a resolution to stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters
UNITED AGAINST TERROR. At a summit held at the level of Heads of Government, the Security Council unanimously adopts resolution 2178 (2014), calling on all Member States to cooperate in efforts to address the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters, 24 September 2014, United Nations, New York. Mark Garten/UN Photo

UNITED NATIONS – With US President Barack Obama banging the gavel, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.

In just the second time an American president presided over the Council, Obama led the heads of state-level meeting and urged his counterparts to prevent the movement of foreign jihadis, and to counter the violent extremism they espouse.

The US-drafted resolution is binding on all 193 UN member states, requiring them to take steps to prevent suspected foreign terrorist fighters from entering or transiting their territories, and to enact domestic legislation to prosecute them.

“If there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this: terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence. These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them. The safety of our citizens demand that we do,” Obama said on Wednesday, September 24.

Obama hailed the resolution as rare and historic, noting that 104 countries co-sponsored it. Leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye attended the summit.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leaders of two nations on the front lines of the terrorism problem, were also present.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon briefed the Council that over 15,000 foreign fighters from more than 80 nations traveled to Syria to join terrorist organizations like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front.

Ban said, “As Muslim leaders around the world have said, groups like ISIL – or Da’ish – have nothing to do with Islam, and they certainly do not represent a state. They should more fittingly be called the “Un-Islamic Non-State.”

In his speech before the Council and the UN General Assembly, Obama acknowledged the difficulty with UN resolutions: enforcement. He said next year, countries should announce concrete steps to counter extremist ideologies.

“Resolutions alone will not be enough. Promises on paper cannot keep us safe. Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.”

The resolution obliges states to criminalize attempts to travel abroad and join a terrorist organization, and to prevent suspected terrorists from entering or traveling through their territory. Countries are also to require airlines to share passenger lists, and increase the sharing of information on these fighters.

CALL TO ORDER. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (center left) greets David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, at the Council summit. Also pictured (from left): Barack Obama, President of the United States and President of the Security Council for September; John Kerry, United States Secretary of State; and Susana Malcorra (left), Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General. 24 September 2014, United Nations, New York. Mark Garten/UN Photo

The document expands a Security Council resolution adopted after 9/11, and has the second most number of co-sponsors ever, according to the US Mission to the UN.

The meeting is part of US efforts to gain international support for its strategy to “degrade and destroy” ISIS, a notorious terror group that beheaded soldiers, journalists and aid workers, persecutes religious minorities, and rapes and enslaves women.

The international community fears that foreign fighters will return to their home countries and carry out terror attacks using the skills they learned in battle, as in the case of 9/11 and the 2002 Bali bombings.

Najib, SBY cited

Even before the resolution was adopted, Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said their countries already initiated measures like seizing passports, and ensuring airlines comply with no-fly lists.

The British Parliament will be recalled on Friday to discuss launching airstrikes against ISIS, as the US and France have done. The Council meeting comes two days after the US launched airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, a controversial move that lacked the support of the Council, the US Congress, and the Syrian government.

Abbott highlighted the threats Australia and Southeast Asia face from ISIS. He noted that last week, an Australian operative in Syria tasked his local network to conduct “demonstration killings” while this week, an Australian terror suspect attacked two policemen.

“Even in what seem to be darkening times, there are grounds for hope: the ISIL horror has generated all-but-universal revulsion. Islamic leaders from Prime Minister Najib [Razak] of Malaysia, and President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono of Indonesia, to the Grand Mufti of Australia, have declared that the ISIL movement is against God, against Islam and against our common humanity,” Abbott said.

In his address before the General Assembly, Obama likewise acknowledged strides in Malaysia and Indonesia as countries offering “alternatives to terror.”

“We see it in Malaysia, where vibrant entrepreneurship is propelling a former colony into the ranks of advanced economies. And we see it in Indonesia, where what began as a violent transition has evolved into a genuine democracy.”

Rappler earlier reported that about 50 Indonesians, and 20 Malaysians went to fight with ISIS in Syria. Abbott said the number is at least 60 for Australia

‘Good governance kills terrorism’

Obama and world leaders stressed that fighting terrorism and ISIS requires a comprehensive approach, addressing development issues like education, especially for the Arab youth.

“Missiles may kill terrorists. But good governance kills terrorism,” Ban said.

Obama said airstrikes and military action are not enough. “Violent extremist terrorism must be rejected. We must change hearts and minds.” – Rappler.com

Rappler multimedia reporter Ayee Macaraig is a 2014 fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists. She is in New York to cover the UN General Assembly, foreign policy, diplomacy, and world events.