After the killing of an U.S. journalist and the clear escalation of the situation in Iraq, the Obama administration is carefully weighing its options and considering a military intervention in Syria that could even include U.S. airstrikes.
In spite of the fact that President Barack Obama has clearly expressed his desire to not involve the United States into Syria’s bloody civil war, the recent beheading of James Foley, the American journalist that had been abducted in 2012, has given new context to the matter. Now, a topic that has divided the president’s team in the past, seems to have come to light again.
The Obama administration is now considering intensifying American efforts and training as well as arming Syrian rebels who have been battling both the Islamic State and the government of Bashar Assad. Another possibility would be supporting Syrian Kurds in their attempts at taking on the Islamic State.
Apart from these moderate intervention possibilities, U.S. officials have also made it clear that jet fighter deployments and airstrikes are a possibility and that if need be, they might also consider sending special operations forces into Syria. Officials have also been discussing about unmanned drones that could target Islamic State leaders in both Syria and Iraq (such drones have already been deployed in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan).
President Obama has been quite skeptic about military actions that the U.S. could undertake, and hasn’t expressed his intent of arming Syrian rebels (although such actions had been requested in 2011).
Benjamin Rhodes, presidential deputy national security adviser, declared that if someone decides to come after Americans, they should expect retaliation. He added that the president was considering all his options and that he would undertake whatever is necessary to deal with the threat, ignoring border restrictions.
If he were to decide for a scope expansion in Syria, operations against the Islamic States extremists would no longer be limited to protective airstrikes meant to defend U.S. personnel and religious minorities. After having contributed to the retaking of the Mosul Dam, president Obama would now actively involve the United States into crippling the Islamic State.
Such an intervention would represent a massive turnaround and president Obama has opposed similar moves in the past. Consequently, many officials doubt that he would agree.
If the U.S. decides to act directly in the conflict, it may just be that they are indirectly aiding Assad’s government (since the Islamic State was extremely effective at fighting off Syrian government forces). But apart from that, it serves directly to U.S. interests as the IS group has become a worrying threat.