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Obama to set out strategy for combating Islamic State threat

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama, in a nationally televised speech, is due to set out his strategy for combating Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria. The highly anticipated address will be broadcast from the State Floor of the White House at 9pm (local time), timed to coincide with primetime TV.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday to meet Iraq’s new leaders, including Prime Minister Haider al Abadi. Kerry pledged the United States’ continued support for eliminating the extremist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

He did not reveal details of Obama’s plan, but did announce the US will provide another $48m (£29.8m) to UN agencies and other aid organisations to help ease the suffering of 1.8 million people who have been displaced by IS militants.

“The United States and the world will simply not stand by and watch as ISIL’s evil spreads,” Kerry said. IS has been on the warpath in Iraq and Syria, taking large swathes of territory and putting US lives at risk, according the White House.

In the last few weeks, IS has released videos of its militants beheading kidnapped American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Until recently, Obama has been accused of not having a clear plan about how to deal with the militants.

The President has already ruled out “boots on the ground”, but it has been hinted that special forces could be used and airstrikes could be intensified. The US has already conducted more than 150 airstrikes in northern and western Iraq in the last month at the request of the Iraqi government.

One of the key questions that remain is whether Obama is prepared to launch airstrikes within Syrian territory. The US supports a change of government in Syria and there are many uncertainties over the consequences of launching military action in a country that is not allied to America.

On Tuesday, the President met congressional leaders in a bid to arrange a united front. In an interview broadcast on Sunday as part of NBC’s Meet The Press, Obama said he preferred not to go after IS alone and was making efforts to build an international coalition.

To that end, Kerry met with officials in Jordan on Tuesday and is expected to travel to Saudi Arabia after his stop in Iraq for a meeting with leaders from across the Middle East.