With the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) advancing rapidly through Iraq and posting images of their brutal mass executions, plans have begun to evacuate America’s embassy in Baghdad. In Washington, however, Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a conference on the world’s real “vital security issue”: climate change.
Kerry, who has remarked intermittently in interviews on the current crisis in Iraq, spent the morning hosting the State Department’s “Our Ocean” conference– a summit of 80 countries and academic experts designed to engage global leaders in a discussion on how to save the world’s oceans from the effects of climate change. There, Secretary Kerry announced that the world had a “shared responsibility” to keep the seas clean, and encouraged global leaders to see climate change and the protection of the seas as a national security issue, not an environmental one.
Kerry addressed preemptively concerns that he was focusing time on climate change when the world required his attention on much graver and more immediate threats. “For anyone who questions why are we here when there are so many areas of conflict and so many issues of vital concern as there are,” he announced, “…no one should mistake that the protection of our oceans is a vital international security issue.” Kerry also noted that, because of the conflict in Iraq, he would not be able to attend every event at the conference.
Kerry nonetheless opened the conference with warnings that climate change poses an immediate threat to the world, one that requires addressing before he works to remedy the situation in Iraq. Currently, ISIS jihadists are believed to be within 300 miles of Baghdad, and American military have been sent to protest the embassy in the capital. Partial evacuations have begun, and Kerry has said in an interview previously that the United States will not discount the possibility of working with Iran on the issue.
Unlike the United States, Iran has already deployed troops to its neighbor in an attempt to help stabilize the Iraqi government. Iran has sent in 2,000 troops to reinforce the Iraqi military, which, while grossly outnumbering ISIS fighters, have been unable to quell their invasion of towns and imposition of Sharia law.
While the situation continued to worsen over the weekend, President Obama too delivered a speech on climate change at the University of California, promoting an extreme weather fund to help states allegedly hurt by the advancement of climate change. After the speech, President Obama traveled to Palm Springs for Father’s Day, where he spent the day playing golf.
Watch Kerry’s speech at the Our Oceans conference here.