On Monday, U.S. officials told The New York Times that President Barack Obama is sending American military surveillance aircraft to Syria — a move that could eventually lead to airstrikes against ISIS militants. Apparently, Obama won't move toward authorizing airstrikes until more information about the Islamic State targets is known, but Pentagon higher-ups told the Times they're working out various military options for the president. Any military action will be carried out without coordinating with the Syrian government.
Obama didn't notify Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about the surveillance flights, as he doesn't want to be seen aiding al-Assad's government in any way, according to the Times, and the flights will be kept to the Iraq-Syria border. But if Obama does in fact authorize airstrikes, he won't be informing al-Assad of that, either.
The Syrian government called on the White House on Monday to put together a joint effort to take down ISIS, and said airstrikes without cooperating with Syria would be seen as an "act of aggression." This past July, the U.S. already authorized surveillance flights in Syria without getting permission. That resulted in a failed rescue mission to recover ISIS hostages, including American photo journalist James Foley, recently executed by an ISIS militant.
Although Obama has kept military force in Syria at bay, the president's position changed after the video was released of Foley's execution. Foley had been held captive since 2012 after being captured in Syria.
White House spokesman John Earnest said Obama is taking necessary steps to protect U.S. citizens. "That is true without regard to international boundaries," he added.
U.S. military airstrikes in Iraq have been underway since August, aiding Iraqi and Kurdish troops against ISIS militants. But these particular surveillance flights are intended to find where ISIS militants are operating.
One senior official told the Times that may decide to target ISIS militant leaders in Raqqa in the north, where the group seems to have a stronghold established, as well as various posts in the East, close to the Iraqi border. Plus, according to the Times, U.S. aircraft could shoot long-range weapons at targets in Syria from the Iraq-Syria border.
The U.S. is hoping that conducting an airstrike against ISIS in Syria will aid the Free Syrian Army, which are against al-Assad's government and battling ISIS. So far, the U.S. has armed the Free Syrian Army with weapons and training.
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