Obama expected to authorize airstrikes in Syria without Damascus's consent

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

Published Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Updated at 3:19 pm (GMT +3): US President Barack Obama is expected to authorize airstrikes in Syria as part of a strategy “to battle the the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group,” without the consent of the Syrian government.

Despite devoting much of his presidency to exiting Middle Eastern entanglements and avoiding new ones, Obama is said to be ready to tell Americans on Wednesday that he is prepared to expand airstrikes on ISIS into Syria.

"You will hear from the President how the United States will pursue a comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS," a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

The plan will include US military action against Islamic State forces and new support for the opposition in Syria and the new "inclusive" government in Iraq, the official said.

Similarly, the New York Times and the Washington Post said late Tuesday that Obama is willing to expand to Syria the campaign of airstrikes that the United States has so far limited to ISIS targets in Iraq over the past month.

Michele Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense for policy under Obama who was among those who attended a dinner with him Monday, said the president is determined to fight ISIS "wherever their strategic targets are", according to the Post.

"This is not an organization that respects international boundaries," said Flournoy, who left the administration in 2012. "You cannot leave them with a safe haven.. . . I expect him to be very candid."

Last month, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem warned the US against carrying airstrikes without Damascus’s consent, saying any such attack would be considered an aggression and a clear violation of Syria’s sovereignty.

On Tuesday, Syrian media accused Arab governments of giving Washington prior agreement for military action against jihadists.

The commentary comes ahead of talks in Saudi Arabia on Thursday between Secretary of State John Kerry and US regional allies on joint action to tackle the threat posed by ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.

The talks are part of US efforts to build a coalition to tackle ISIS, which has seized large tracts of territory in both Syria and Iraq, and carried out abuses including the decapitation of Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese and two American journalists.

On Sunday, the Arab League pledged to take "necessary measures" to confront ISIS, and said it was ready for "international cooperation on all fronts."

But Syria, Iran and Russia will not be present at the talks in Saudi Arabia, and Damascus fears efforts to tackle ISIS will involve airstrikes on its territory without its permission.

State-run newspaper Al-Thawra warned: "The United States is setting the stage to bring new wars to the region.

Another newspaper called for the formation of an alternative "Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition" against the jihadists to that being put together by Washington.

"Western and regional governments are excluding the nations that really want to fight terrorism," it said, charging that the US-led coalition included nations that "support terrorism financially, military and logistically."

Damascus considers all rebel groups fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad "terrorists" and has long accused the rebels' supporters, particularly Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, of funding "terror."

Similarly, critics opposed to US involvement in the conflict with ISIS have pointed out that Washington in partnership with its Gulf allies, including Saudi Arabia, played a role in the formation and expansion of extremist groups like ISIS by arming, financing and politically empowering armed opposition groups in Syria.

On Monday, a study by the London-based small-arms research organization Conflict Armament Research revealed that ISIS jihadists appear to be using US military issue arms and weapons supplied to the so-called moderate rebels in Syria by Saudi Arabia.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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