Secretary of State John Kerry’s definition of ISIS is now “a mixture of killers and kidnappers, smugglers, thieves, and apostates who have hijacked a religion and combined a medieval thinking with modern weapons to wage an especially savage brand of war.”
Speaking at the Brookings Institution Saban Forum on Saturday, Kerry added that ISIS has “conjured up an abhorrent theory that rape of non-Muslim women and girls is condoned by God and is a form of prayer.”
“They butcher teachers, burn books, shut schools, destroy ancient sacred places including the tombs of the prophets Jonah and Daniel. And they have seized the director of antiquities in Palmyra, made him kneel in a public square, cut off his head, and left his body tied to a pole. This man was 83 years old and he had been in charge of preserving Palmyra’s cultural heritage for more than 50 years,” he said, referring to the August murder of Khalid al-Asaad.
“Daesh executes people not for anything they’ve done but for who they are and for what they believe and for how they choose to worship God. They are fighting against everything that our ancestors fought for and stood for through the course of history and particularly the 20th century. They have a contempt for decency, for modernity, for liberty, for rule of law, the sacredness of an individual, and for truth.”
Kerry lauded President Obama for declaring “at the very outset,” at “the moment we saw what Daesh was doing and how they were moving and coming into Iraq…that we must defeat Daesh.”
“And that is why we are now increasing the pace of doing so,” he added.
He argued for a political solution in Syria as “the fastest way to defeat Daesh.”
On the administration’s push for a two-state solution, Kerry said “it’s not exclusively up to [the Israelis], but it’s predominantly up to them, and there’s got to be a greater indication of the things that both — both — are willing to do to move down this road.”
“Israel gets wind of some nefarious activities, and so Israel is going to resort to self-help. And I’m sympathetic to that, yes. But there should be a greater effort cooperatively with everybody, including us by the way,” the secretary of State said.
“…The problem is now we’re three years down the road with a disappointing process in the intervening time that reduces trust and hope, and so just coming in with the same kinds of measures will not get it done again. So what I’m trying to persuade people is you have to go a little further to indicate to the Palestinians a political horizon, something that begins to say to them, ‘Yes, you can have a state. There is a way to get there. Here’s what you have to do.'”
That path for the Palestinians, he said, includes helping them have “some agriculture, do some business, and begin to strengthen themselves.”
You would still have the legal right to Israel for full security; it only affects their right to build some housing, not to have their houses demolished, and to begin to have some hope,” Kerry added. “That’s one of the kinds of steps we’re looking forward to.”