#BBCTrending: Diplomats double down on IS and jobs

Marie Harf Image copyright Getty Images

US State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, has been ridiculed for her comments about fighting IS through employment - but diplomatic leaders make it clear that the statement was no gaffe.

Harf told MSNBC that when it comes to the so-called Islamic State (IS), the United States "cannot win this war by killing them" and that jobs and opportunity would dissuade people from joining the group - and thus prevent terrorism.

The notion was met with derision by conservatives, and has led to a flood of online memes. Everything from mock hashtags like #jobsforISIS to pictures of known terrorists like Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, with captions like "had a good job, still committed jihad" to personal attacks against Harf herself, making jokes about her age, appearance and intellect.

Having become the story, Harf doubled down on her comments on CNN the following day.

"We cannot kill every terrorist around the world, nor should we try. How do you get at the root causes of this? It might be too nuanced an argument for some."

Of course this sent opponents into a second round of disapproval - giving life to a new word trending on Twitter: Harfing.

But what turned Harf into an internet sensation appears also be a talking point and a policy plan that defenders are not abandoning.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, US Under Secretary of State of Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Sarah Sewall reiterated the need for more than just military might to counter IS.

To regional players, it's not such an extraordinary idea either. Former Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher reiterated the danger of the economic threat in a discussion with a group of foreign policy reporters at the Carnegie Endowment Thursday morning. He says joblessness is a reason why people are turning to ISIS, not because they believe in the ideology. "When I talk to young people in Jordan, they don't feel they have hope for the future."

As the White House Counter Violence Extremism Summit carried on in Washington, representatives from over 60 countries discussed how to counter radical ideologies and stop terrorist networks from exploiting civilian grievances. In his speech, even President Obama emphasized the need to tackle economic frustrations.

The US State Department is not generally known to be a news-making machine. As the diplomatic arm of the US government, it's supposed to be synonymous with cool, calm, calculation.

On a normal day, getting anyone at the podium to even remotely veer from their talking points is a feat. Getting the attention of Americans outside of Washington, DC is almost impossible.

Whether inadvertent or not, Harf's comments turned out to be a highly publicised roll out of a bit of foreign policy.

Reporting by Suzanne Kianpour

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