Jihadist ‘caliphate’ has peaked - but Kerry warns IS fight will take ‘years’

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned today it will take years for a U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State group, as Washington said arch-foe Iran had launched its first air strikes against the jihadists and analysts said that their “caliphate” had peaked. Kerry told the first high-level talks in Brussels of a coalition of around 60 nations that strikes in Iraq and Syria were having a “significant” impact and vowed that they would stay the course. The Pentagon said Iranian F-4 Phantom jets hit IS fighters in eastern Iraq in recent days but denied any military coordination with long-term adversary Iran. Tehran refused to confirm or deny any strikes. Iran is not a member of the coalition, but the claim suggested a tacit understanding between Iran and the US to tackle the common threat from a group that proclaimed a caliphate in Iraq and Syria in June.

We have indications that they (Iran) did indeed fly air strikes with F-4 Phantoms in the past several days.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby

Kerry, opening the talks at NATO headquarters, told foreign ministers taking part that the coalition of western and Arab states “will engage in this campaign for as long as it takes to prevail”. But he added that “our efforts are already having a significant impact”. It came as analysts said the tide was beginning to turn against IS, with jihadists losing ground in Iraq and only able to hold on to their positions in Syria. Harassed by air strikes and facing better coordination among their opponents, IS fighters have suffered a string of defeats in Iraq and had to retreat from some areas they had conquered in June and the following months, they said.

Our commitment will most likely be measured in years.

US Secretary of State John Kerry