BALTIMORE (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday the goal of an international coalition he is helping to form is to “ultimately snuff out” the type of extremism demonstrated by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
It is a “sobering time,” said Obama at a Democratic fund-raising event in Baltimore following his decision to authorize U.S. air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria for the first time, and to add to targeted areas in Iraq.
The threat from Islamic State has had an important silver lining, he said. It has focused the world’s attention on the need to “ultimately snuff out this particular brand of Islamic extremism that really has no place in the 21st century.”
Obama is leading an effort to form a coalition of Western allies and Gulf Arab states to take on the extremist group, whose savage methods have included beheading two American journalists.
“We’re going to be able to build the kind of coalition that allows us to lead, but also isn’t entirely dependent on what we do,” said Obama, who wants to avoid a repeat of the Iraq war and has vowed not to send large numbers of U.S. combat troops there.
Obama met with NATO allies last week in Wales and later this month will hold a leaders security conference at the U.N. General Assembly in New York, aimed at gaining commitments from nations willing to join the coalition.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to host a training mission for those Syrian rebels deemed moderate by the United States.
The Baltimore fund-raising event was held at the home of Howard Friedman, a former head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Residents in the heavily Jewish neighborhood spilled out into their front yards, many waving pro-Israel signs.
“Thank you for standing by Israel,” Friedman told Obama in introducing him to the small crowd at the fund-raiser.
Reporting By Steve Holland; editing by Gunna Dickson