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Obama: Too early to declare victory against ISIS

US president Barack Obama said yesterday that it is still far too early to say that the international coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), led by the United States, has been victorious in its fight against the group.

Speaking to a group of journalists after a landslide Republican victory in the mid-term elections, Obama said, "It's still too early to say" whether the US campaign against ISIS is succeeding.

In August, Obama warned the American public and the international community that the military campaign against ISIS' expansion in Iraq and Syria would be a long battle. The Obama Administration was recently accused of failing to come up with an efficient military strategy to combat the jihadist group after it stunned the world with its ability to gain control of large areas of Iraq and Syria.

Obama stressed that the US-led coalition is looking to "solidify the Iraqi government, to solidify their security forces, to make sure that in addition to our air cover that they have the capacity to run a ground game that pushes ISIL [ISIS] back from territories that they had taken."

The coalition was "on the ground providing the training, providing the equipment, providing the supplies that are necessary for Iraqis to fight on behalf of their territory."

In the Syrian context, Obama warned that addressing the ISIS fighters would be more difficult due to the lack of a clear third force that can confront them on the ground. The American president ruled out the possibility of sending ground troops to the country.

""There is a specific issue about trying to get a moderate opposition in Syria that can serve as a partner with us on the ground. That's always been the hardest piece of business to get done," Obama continued.

"There are a lot of opposition groups in Syria along a spectrum, from radical jihadists who are our enemies to folks who believe in inclusive democracy and everything in between. They fight among each other."

He said: "What we're trying to do is to find a core group that we can work with, that we have confidence in, that we vetted, that can help in regaining territory from ISIL and then ultimately serve as a responsible party to sit at the table in eventual political negotiations that are probably some ways off in the future."

On Iran, the president said that the US has sent a proposal for an agreement with Tehran regarding the latter's controversial nuclear file but with no guarantee that a historic settlement will be reached.

In response to a question during a press conference about the possibility of reaching a final agreement between Tehran and the major powers within the proposed time limit, which is said to end on November 24, Obama said: "We have designed a framework that will allow them to meet their needs, if peaceful, in the energy domain."

While the negotiations between Iran and the United States are in their final stages, this is the first time that Washington has made any references to submitting a proposal to Tehran in an effort to reach a final settlement.

"If it is true what their leaders are saying, that is, if they truly have no interest in developing a nuclear weapon roadmap, then all they have to do is give assurances to the international community that this is in fact true and this will allow them to get out of the sanctions penal system," the president said.

"We will see whether an agreement will be signed in the coming weeks. It is ultimately better to fail to meet the deadline by not signing an agreement than it would be to sign a bad one."

The US Department of State announced on Friday that the US Secretary of State John Kerry and his European Union counterpart, Catherine Ashton, will meet in Oman on November 9-10 with the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to negotiate the framework of Iran's nuclear programme.

The Austrian news agency (APA) cited diplomatic sources on Friday confirming that the diplomats will meet to discuss "their positions" regarding the Iranian file with the hopes that they will be able to reach an agreement by November 24.

Kerry also announced that Iran will have to make some "tough decisions" in the coming weeks and that this will ultimately be the determining factor as to whether or not an agreement will be reached.

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Asia & AmericasIraqMiddle EastNewsSyriaUS
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