The Associated Press reports the beginning of surveillance flights on Tuesday, only days after President Barack Obama approved the use of surveillance drones in Syria. This move could represent the first step that could pave the way for U.S. airstrikes against Islamic States fighters based in Northern Syria.
The Syrian government has explicitly demanded that the United States only carry out airstrikes against Islamic State targets located on Syrian territory if permission is granted beforehand. The State Department, however, indicated that it would not be seeking approval from the Syrian regime. In fact, there has been a continued back and forth between the Obama administration and the Syrian regime as to the possibility of airstrikes being launched over Syrian territories.
Earlier this month, President Barack Obama ordered airstrikes to be carried out in Iraq after claiming that the threat against American personnel in the area represented a humanitarian crisis. Pentagon officials now claim that the only possibility of eliminating the threat from Islamic State extremists is to follow them in the neighboring Syrian territories they inhabit.
This is the first truly intrusive surveillance measure that the United States has enforced in the country since the civil war in Syria began three years ago. It differs from the protective surveillance that the U.S. carried out while attempting to rescue the American hostages who were being held in Syria.
A senior US official explained that there was currently no plan to commence airstrikes in Syria but that, if the situation should require it, the decision can be made easier by having as much situational awareness as possible.
The White House now faces the difficult decision of authorizing or not authorizing airstrikes, especially after recent escalations in the battle against the Islamic State extremists.
Clashes have been intensifying in the region and it seems that Islamic State militants plan to massacre yet another town in northern Iraq. Additionally, Middle Eastern militaries have been conducting airstrikes of their own, as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates struck Islamist militias in Libya without informing Washington.
It isn’t yet clear as to how serious U.S. officials are about airstrikes in Syria, but recently, they claimed that airstrikes would only then be used if they were to respond to a threat made against the U.S.
Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, is aware of the shift of disapproval from Bashar Assad’s government and towards Islamic State extremists who are leaving destruction in their wake and stated that Syria is prepared to coordinate with any side and cooperate to eliminate this threat.