President Barack Obama will hold a summit late this month in the United Nations Security Council to try to counter the surging power and strength of the Islamic terrorists that have seized parts of the Middle East this summer and other violent extremists worldwide. The summit, to convene on Sept. 25, will occur during the annual opening proceedings of the General Assembly, when the world’s heads of state meet to speak on national and global topics.
The United States is president of the council this month in the rotating seat, ostensibly enabling it to shape a coalition among the body’s 15 permanent and elected members to devise counterterrorism methods that include precise prevention and legal tools that could be internationalized in a binding resolution. The resolution could help governments deal more uniformly with other counterterrorism approaches, such as sharing information on travel flows of terrorists, said Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, detailing to a packed room of UN press corps members news on the summit.
She said the meeting would draw “high-level international attention and action” to the “dangerous phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters.”
Terrorist attacks in the last few months, particularly that of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), “have driven this point home, including sadly yesterday, as you all saw,” she added, referring to the beheading by ISIS of an American journalist, Steven Sotloff, on Sept. 2. Another American journalist, James Foley, was beheaded by ISIS on Aug. 19.
“We’re seeing a surge in terrorists traveling from around the globe specifically to fight in foreign conflicts,” Power said, in her official appearance to the media at the UN as president of the Security Council in September. “These fighters participate in brutal atrocities in the countries they travel to and often return home radicalized by their experiences.”
The council is unified in its disdain toward the lethal presence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, having passed a resolution in August to sanction six individuals in the group, which has been accused of war crimes in its recent jihadist sweep across northern Iraq, killing, kidnapping and sending streams of ethnic and religious minorities fleeing from the country. The US, the Kurdish pesh merga fighters in northern Iraq and the Iraqi Shiite militias have been working in concert militarily to blunt advances by ISIS while other countries have been providing humanitarian aid.
The council will also pay attention to Ukraine, among other urgent problems on its agenda this month, where a cease-fire has just been announced to halt the fighting between Ukrainians and pro-Russian separatists. In addition, the council will hold a debate on children in armed conflict, of which ISIS and other “nonstate actors” as well as various countries have been accused of using in their ranks. That topic will pivot on the annual report from Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general. The Nigerian extremist group, Boko Haram, is listed in the report for the first time, Power said.
She noted that Obama and John Kerry, the US secretary of state, might meet with the UN press corps in September but plans were still unresolved.
Power, who for the first time in months answered questions from reporters at the UN, also said that the Security Council was continuing to discuss a more “sustainable” cease-fire between the Palestinians and Israels, and that the US thinks a council “product” could play a positive role in supporting a durable solution — referring obliquely to draft resolutions that have been circulating if not languishing in the council to cement a more permanent end to the war between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The US, she noted in addressing a reporter’s question, remains steadfast to a two-state solution, even as Palestinians are suddenly demanding that Israel end its occupation in three years.
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Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.
Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.