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What Countries Are Fighting ISIS, and Who Is Sitting on the Sidelines

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French President Francois Hollande, right, and Iraq's President Fuad Masum at an international conference on how to defeat Islamic State militants in Paris on Sept. 15, 2014. Christian Hartmann/Reuters

The U.S. on Monday launched new airstrikes over Iraq against fighters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS), formerly known as ISIS. The bombing struck IS forces near Mount Sinjar in northwestern Iraq and, for the first time, near the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, reports NBC News.

The same day, France began reconnaissance flights over Iraq and said it’s ready to join the U.S. in launching airstrikes in Iraq. French President François Hollande outlined the threat posed by the Sunni Muslim jihadist group at the start of a summit of leaders from more than 30 nations gathered in Paris who pledged to use “whatever means necessary” to defeat IS.

The conference, which included foreign ministers from ten Arab states, brought together members of a U.S.-led coalition that includes more than 40 countries. The exact list of nations remains unclear, CNN reports.

It became clear, however, that two main players in the Middle East, Iran and Turkey, have not signed on to the coalition. Although Iran has offered military aid to Iraqi forces fighting IS, Secretary of State John Kerry visiting Turkey last week said it would be “inappropriate” for the Islamic state to join the coalition.

More surprising, Nato member Turkey has declined so far to join the coalition, despite visits by Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to persuade Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to join the ten Arab states lined up against IS.

While Turkey says it is tightening its border access to Syria, the most common way for foreign fighters to join IS, Erdogan’s relationship with other Syrian opposition groups, including Islamist terror groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda-linked group, betrays a more complex approach to the threat of IS in Syria and Iraq.

"[The IS threat] is global, so the response must be global,” said Hollande, who has expressed his support for the new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. “Iraq's fight against the terrorists is also our fight. We must commit ourselves together - that is the purpose of this conference."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told France Inter radio the cost of inaction against IS “would be to say to these butchers, ‘Go ahead, you have a free pass.’ We won’t accept that.”

Laurent said the Islamic State are not “a state representative of Islam” and neither are its fighters, or “throat-cutters,” as he referred to them.

Representatives from the main European states, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Arab states including the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were all in attendance.  Another meeting to outline further action against IS will be held in Bahrain, with 51 countries expected to attend, the Guardian reports.

What Key Groups Are Doing About ISIS

U.S.

The U.S. outlined its plan on confronting IS last week. President Barack Obama authorized airstrikes over Syria and told the nation he would send an additional 475 troops to Iraq in a non-combat role in his prime time address.

The U.S. has launched more than 150 airstrikes over Iraq and the airborne campaign looks set to continue. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday it’s too early to know what type of role each member of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS will take.

U.K.

The U.K. has been flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq and provided humanitarian aid to members of the Yazidi religious minority group who were stranded atop Iraq’s Mount Sinjar in August. British Prime Minister David Cameron says he supports U.S. airstrikes, but the U.K. has not launched any yet.

That could all change after the latest video released by IS showed the beheading of British aid worker David Haines, the third Western hostage murdered by the group. Cameron said the U.K. was "ready to take whatever steps are necessary" to deal with the threat.

NATO

Taking action against IS would prevent a genocide, NATO General-Secretary Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Monday. While he agreed that military action is necessary, NATO won’t be undertaking any military response as an organization.

"We are not considering... a leading NATO role in this operation. A number of NATO allies are forming a coalition that also includes countries from the region," said Rasmussen, who will be stepping down from his position at the end of the month.  

Saudi Arabia

Concerned about the threat IS poses to their country, Saudi Arabia is becoming an important U.S. partner is the fight against IS. The Saudis agreed to fund a base where training of “moderate Syrian opposition fighters” to defeat IS will take place, The New York Times reports.

“We now have the commitment from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be a full partner in this effort — the train-and-equip program — to host that program,” a senior Obama administration official told The New York Times. The $500 million program will be voted on by Congress this week.

Saudi Arabia is one of several Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates, have offered to help the U.S. attack IS, the Guardian reports, although the U.S. has so far declined to name any other countries.

Iraq

Iraqi President Fuad Masum said he hoped the Paris summit would bring a “quick response” to IS, who have declared a caliphate across the northern part of Iraq and Syria.

"Islamic State's doctrine is either you support us or kill us‎. It has committed massacres and genocidal crimes and ethnic purification," said Masum.

Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad

The U.S. will not be working with the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to defeat IS. Airstrikes in Syria may be illegal without Assad’s agreement or unless he requests assistance from a Western nation, according to an assessment by the U.K.’s House of Commons Library.

Syrian opposition

U.S. Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said ground troops are necessary to defeat IS, but they won’t be coming from the U.S.

“We need ground troops, that's why we want this program to train the [Syrian] opposition, that's currently pending in Congress. And that's why we want to make sure that this coalition bring Sunnis to the fight,” said McDonough, speaking on “Meet the Press.”

Kurds

Along with Iraqi government forces, Kurdish officials have requested U.S. help to target IS fighters operating along the Iraqi-Syrian border “to deprive ISIS of the safe havens it enjoy in that area,” The New York Times reports.

Israel

Israel’s counterterrorism bureau released a travel advisory for Israelis travelling to Western Europe and warned IS may target Israelis and Jews, Arutz Sheva reports. The travel warning uses the example of former IS fighter Mehdi Nemmouche, who is believed to have carried out a deadly shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May.

Israel has not been asked to join Obama’s coalition against IS. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the brutal beheading of David Haines on Sunday and said Islamic State and other terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Nusra Front are all “branches of the same poison tree.”

Netanyahu said Israel needs a “strong defense against” IS.

Iran

Iran was not invited to the conference, but Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran declined an invitation from the U.S. “I said no, because they have dirty hands,” Khamenei said on the U.S.

Kerry has ruled out any prospect of military partnership with Iran, the Guardian reports.

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