The members of an international anti-Islamic State coalition meeting in Paris have agreed to provide military assistance to Iraqi authorities to help combat the group.
Representatives from the group of 30 countries in attendance at Monday's conference — including the US and Gulf states — said they would back the Iraqi government "by any means necessary - including military assistance", Sky News reported. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius added that the nature of the involvement would vary depending on the participant.
French President Francois Hollande opened the conference by urging the international community to mount a cohesive response to IS, stressing the danger it poses around the world. "What is the threat? It is global so the response must be global," Hollande said.
The talks took place after the recent beheading of British humanitarian worker David Haines and threat to kill another UK humanitarian Alan Henning. IS has previously murdered two US journalists — James Foley and Steven Sotloff — in a similar manner.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond was in attendance at the conference. Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to hunt down the "monsters" responsible for Haines's death, but has not yet committed the UK to direct military action. Cameron is reportedly under pressure from his party members to do so and is said to be working on securing support for British participation in airstrikes. He has promised to recall the British parliament to debate military involvement, which would likely have to wait until after the Scottish independence referendum takes place on September 18.
IS first appeared in Syria around April 2013. Comprised mainly of foreign fighters, it initially appeared to be siding with rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However it soon became clear that the militants' priorities were to take advantage of the power vacuum created by the civil war and seize territory and implement its extreme version of Islamic law. It overran large swathes of northern Iraq in a shock offensive in June this year and subsequently declared a caliphate in the areas under its control.
The group has since been blamed for a litany of war crimes and human right abuses.
The US has been conducting airstrikes on IS targets in Iraq since August, when the group made a push into territory controlled by the US-backed Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and seemingly threatened the capital of Erbil. American officials said before the conference began that a number of Middle Eastern countries had offered to join the attacks, the Associated Press reported. Last week, US President Barack Obama said he had authorized strikes in Syria too.
Further backing will seemingly be forthcoming. France announced it had begun reconnaissance missions over Iraq on Monday, while Australia said it would provide eight aircraft and 600 personnel to help combat IS.
Shiite powerhouse Iran, a close ally of Iraq which has also said it is dedicated to fighting IS, rejected working as part of an international coalition. Along with Syria, it was not invited to the talks, but in an address on state television, the country's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said officials had turned down US suggestions of cooperation against the group, AP reported.
Any cooperation with Assad's government, has also been ruled out. Western countries have been staunchly opposed to his rule since 2011 when an armed uprising began in response to security forces' brutal repression of Arab Spring-inspired peaceful protests.