Following the lead of Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday began using the Arabic acronym "Daesh" when referring to the Islamic State (ISIL), although he continued to the latter acronym as well. Kerry was in Egypt for a meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, and spoke extensively about the terrorist group in remarks following the meeting. The new terminology appears to be an attempt to bolster the secretary's contention that there is "nothing whatsoever about ISIL that is related to Islam."
Kerry first referenced "Daesh" when discussing the coalition to defeat ISIL, where he used the two terms interchangeably:
And as President Obama made clear, the United States is committed to degrading and ultimately defeating ISIL. And I’m very pleased to say that more than 60 partners have now committed to joining us in this effort in a variety of ways. Not everybody will play a military role or a direct kinetic role. Some will help with respect to the delegitimization of Daesh’s claims with respect to religion.
Throughout the run-up to the forming of the coalition and ultimately the bombing campaign against the Islamic State, Kerry has been insistent about the non-Islamic nature of the group, going so far as to say in September that "we must put real Islam out there." Kerry continued in that vein Sunday, saying that the coalition against ISIL is not "primarily military in nature," with a large part of the equation also being an "effort to counter ISIL’s false claims about Islam":
So the coalition required to eliminate ISIL is not only or even primarily military in nature, and we welcome everybody’s contribution to that effort. Particularly, the effort to counter ISIL’s false claims about Islam, a peaceful religion. There is nothing about ISIL, as the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia said, or the council that issues fatwas said, nothing whatsoever about ISIL that is related to Islam.
Ultimately in his remarks, Kerry used "Daesh" five times and the English acronym ten times. Until now, the US State Department's use of the Arabic acronym has been relatively rare, and a review of Secretary Kerry's previous speeches and remarks did not turn up any prior usage. The White House has not used the term at all.
From now on the French foreign ministry will be calling it Daesh, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS or the Islamic State group.
Last week, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius asked journalists and media organisations to do the same.
He said: “This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats’.”...
Daesh is a loose acronym of the Arabic for “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham).Although the Obama administration has claimed the fight against ISIL has yielded some positive results, Army General Martin Dempsey acknowledged Sunday on ABC's This Week that he is "fearful Kobani [Syria] will fall" to ISIL, and that ISIL's adaptations since the bombing began will complicate the coalition's efforts to identify and strike ISIL targets:
“I am fearful that Kobani will fall,” Dempsey said, adding that he has “no doubt” ISIL will conduct horrific atrocities if they have the opportunity to do so.
ISIL is putting pressure on the city’s outskirts, and into the city itself, the chairman said. ISIL forces are becoming more adept with the use of electronic devices, he added, and are making themselves harder to find and identify. “They don't fly flags and move around in large convoys the way they did. … They don't establish headquarters that are visible or identifiable,” he said.
Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.