French president François Hollande is in the middle of his grand world tour to try and extract political pinky swears from as many leaders as possible when it comes to promising to help fight ISIS. Today, he met with President Obama at the White House; he met with British prime minister David Cameron yesterday, and will meet with German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. Russian president Vladimir Putin comes next on Thursday, and the week will end in Paris with a visit from Chinese president Xi Jinping on Friday.
After Obama and Hollande’s meeting on Tuesday, the pair held a joint press conference and announced that the two countries would boost their “joint response” against the Islamic State, promising to conduct more airstrikes and start getting better about sharing intelligence about targets. ”Americans will not be terrorized … We cannot succumb to fear,” Obama said. “Make no mistake, we will win, and groups like [ISIS] will lose.”
Obama has faced criticism domestically for defending his current ISIS strategy and not announcing any plans to escalate U.S. involvement. France has conducted many airstrikes in Syria since the attacks in Paris, and still plans on welcoming 30,000 Syrian refugees into the country. Obama’s plan to rehouse 10,000 Syrian refugees in the U.S. has received massive resistance from many elected officials in the past few weeks. The president mentioned these fears in the press conference, and said that Americans shouldn’t worry, as the government was being serious about domestic security. “Nobody who sets foot in America goes through more screening than refugees,” he said. The House passed a bill that would make the screening process for refugees more complex; the Senate will consider it after Thanksgiving. Obama has promised to veto it.
Hollande really wanted to convince Obama to work better with Russia, a Hail Mary plan that probably faced even more resistance after the mess caused by Turkey shooting down a Russian warplane on Tuesday. Obama said that Turkey has the “right to defend its territory and its airspace” — but added that all of this could be prevented if a political solution to the war in Syria is found, something that Secretary of State John Kerry is working on right now. Obama singled out Russia out for its support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, calling the country “the outlier” in the fight against ISIS. He added that mistakes would be “less likely to occur” if Russia conducted airstrikes against the same types of targets as the U.S. and its allies. Hollande said he agreed, and that all countries fighting in Syria should have the same goal. “Assad cannot be the future of Syria,” he said. “Assad has been the problem so he cannot be part of the solution.”