Build a team to expunge the scourge of Islamic State terrorists

08/28/2014 5:31 PM

08/28/2014 5:35 PM

Today is Friday. In the places where Islamic State terrorists rule — in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, for example — that means people will be executed in public and their bodies will be left as lessons to those who don’t comply with the restrictive and fanatical regime.

Friday is particularly gruesome in that dust-bound world, but the Islamic State commits its crimes against humanity every day.

This is the conclusion of a United Nations commission, which issued a report this week, and called for prosecutions at the international criminal court.

“Fridays are regularly marked by executions, amputations and lashings in public squares,” the independent commission of inquiry on the human rights situation in Syria said. Children are forced to watch the atrocities. Innocent civilians can only hope to flee or survive or wait for powerful forces to come to the rescue.

Whose forces would that be?

Delicate and difficult conversations are surely taking place in the White House, the Pentagon and the back channels of this nation’s security operations, as President Barack Obama attested to Thursday. While some want to snipe at the president’s supposed lack of leadership, or misguidingly blame him for this predicament, a more productive activity would be coming to grips with what needs to be done.

We know that American boots on the ground — in Syria or Iraq — should not be the answer. We know that even the minimal air attacks and surveillance the U.S. has undertaken have made a difference.

But the Obama administration’s most important work will be to gather not only our usual allies but an unlikely coalition of stakeholders in the Middle East — among them, the arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran come to mind — around the common goal of expunging this brutal and increasingly brazen scourge.

And all this while Russia makes more opportunistic moves in Ukraine, and a fragile truce begins to take hold in Gaza.

Foreign policy rarely attracts the attention of most Americans. But it’s on the front burner now, and will be weighed very much in the legacy of this politically battered president.

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