U.S. officials said on Monday that they are preparing military options against Islamic State in Syria, adding a new twist to how the United States seeks to counter the rise of militant Islamic spreading across the Middle East that threatens to overrun religious minorities and impose an Islamic caliphate stretching from the borders of Iran to the Mediterranean Sea.
Since August 8th the United States has launched a series of airstrikes on selective military targets against Islamic State across northern Iraq to protect American government officials in Erbil, deter a genocide against religious minorities in Iraq, and allow Kurds to re-claim the Mosul Damn, the largest in Iraq, that was seized by Islamic State fighters on August 7th.
Islamic State retaliated last week by beheading James Foley, an American journalist held captive since 2012, sparking international outrage and calls for stronger U.S. military intervention in the region to help secure greater stability.
Last week America’s top military official, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted that Islamic State can’t be defeated without addressing the part of the organization in neighboring Syria which is a providing logistical base of support for the militant Sunni Wahhabis making up Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
On Monday Jen Psaki, a spokesperson for the U.S. State Department was asked during a daily press briefing if there is a threat from ISIL to the United States.
Psaki struck a cautious chord, saying that they are monitoring to avoid attacks on Western targets.
“I know there have been comments made about 9/11-style attacks. To date, we’ve not seen them focus on that kind of planning. That doesn’t mean we’re not going to be very mindful that they could quickly aim to pivot to attacks against Western targets outside of the region, and that’s certainly something that we’re monitoring very, very closely,” Psaki said.
Islamic State has established their base of support across much of northeast Syria as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, struggles to defeat the well-funded Sunni militant group during a three year bloody war that has killed over 190,000 Syrians and led to some chemical weapons being deployed.
Alawism is an offshoot of Shiite Islam and is Syria’s second largest sect.
The Alawite-dominated Assad government in Syria has made some enemies with its Sunni neighbors but it has strong allies in Shiite Iran and Russia which helped to build up Syria’s military.
On Monday Syria’s Minister Walid al-Moualem said that Syria would cooperate with any international effort to combat Islamic State militants operating in Syria as Washington weighs the costs of bring America’s military intervention into Syria while seeking to avoid enflaming a wider war across the region and take sides in a sectarian conflict.
Last week U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke about the importance of the U.S. combating Islamic State through a broad based regional coalition.
Jen Psaki from the State Department spoke along similar lines and said in yesterday’s daily briefing that the Obama administration believes a common effort is needed to take on the Islamic State threat.
“So that means not just unity within Iraq – among the different parties in Iraq, but it’s also about building and mobilizing a broad coalition of countries – regional states who have no interest in seeing ISIL get a foothold; international partners like the UK – this is working together to determine how we can best address this common threat we face,” Psaki said.