Abdullah told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that ISIS could be taken off the battlefield soon
Abdullah said to expect an "increased tempo" from his country's air force going after ISIS
ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria can be defeated “fairly quickly,” Jordan’s King Abdullah asserted Wednesday, even as President Barack Obama expressed during his State of the Union speech that the fight would take time.
Abdullah, who was in Washington for meetings with the Pentagon about his country’s military strategy against ISIS, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview that the group could be taken off the battlefield soon.
“Hopefully … the military part is short-term,” he said. “The mid-term is going to be the intelligence and security aspect. The long-term is the ideological one and the educational one.”
Abdullah said to expect an “increased tempo” from his country’s air force going after ISIS.
Jordan and the United States have been working alongside dozens of other nations to take out ISIS fighters through airstrikes, a strategy Obama has defended against criticism. He said during Tuesday’s State of the Union that the fight wouldn’t necessarily yield an immediate victory.
“When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit,” Obama said. But he warned against portraying the battle as a global catastrophe.
“Over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands,” he said.
Abdullah insisted there was a large-scale battle in the ideological fight against global Islamic extremism.
“The global war – what I call the Third World War by other means – is one that is a generational one,” he said. “Not only inside Islam, as we as Muslims gain the supremacy against the crazies, the outlaws, of our religion, but also reaching out to other religions that Islam is not what they have seen being perpetuated by 0.1% of our religion.”
As western nations prepare to lift sanctions on Iran in exchange for scaling back its nuclear program, Abdullah said the influx of unfrozen assets to Tehran was causing some anxiety for his country.
“It’s a concern to a lot of us in the region, and I think further afield,” he said. “We’ll have to see how that happens and where we hold them accountable on whatever potential mischief may be found.”
As he departed Washington on Wednesday, Abdullah met briefly at Joint Base Andrews with Obama, who made a last-minute detour on his way to Nebraska for what the White House described as a social encounter.
Obama had originally planned to skip meeting with the close ally. The White House had cited preparations for his State of the Union speech for preventing a more formal sit-down earlier in the week and indicated there were plans to meet in the near future.
Abdullah said Wednesday he did not feel slighted by the lack of a formal meeting.
“As for the President, we’re in contact all the time,” Abdullah said. “I’ve heard this morning that there’s a feeling that I’ve been snubbed, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
One of Obama’s chief foreign policy critics took issue with his decision not to receive a key figure from a region currently topping the list of U.S. international concerns.
“I think at every opportunity, the President should grasp it to show his support for King Abdullah and his thanks for all that he’s done for us,” Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, told Blitzer on CNN’s “The Situation Room” Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the White House announced that an unscheduled meeting had been held after all.
Obama walked from his Marine One helicopter on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews to the passenger lounge, where Abdullah was awaiting his own flight from the military installation later in the day.
The meeting lasted less than five minutes. Obama emerged shortly after entering the building and boarded Air Force One, which was soon airborne and headed to Omaha, where he is due to deliver a speech on the economy.
Obama and Abdullah have met often in the past to discuss issues like counter-terrorism and the war on ISIS, and U.S. officials consistently say Jordan remains a top U.S. ally in the region.
But despite those close ties, the White House wasn’t able to schedule formal bilateral talks between the two leaders during the monarch’s visit to Washington this week. Abdullah did meet with Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday and Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Monday.
“As I think you can understand, there’s quite a bit going on today,” White House Communications Director Jen Psaki told Blitzer Tuesday.
“The Vice President of the United States met with him. But Jordan remains an important partner on really important issues like fighting ISIL, and I wouldn’t read too much into it, beyond the fact that today’s the State of the Union,” Psaki said, using another name for ISIS. Earlier this week a senior administration official told CNN that Obama “regrets” that a meeting couldn’t be scheduled this week.
A senior Jordanian official said, “it had been agreed upon earlier that a meeting with the President will be arranged during an upcoming visit, likely to take place within the coming month or two and not during this visit.”