By James Nye | Mail Online
US forces move into Syria: Obama paves way for airstrikes on ISIS after sending in spy planes - despite Assad warning that any attack will be seen as ’aggression’
Barack Obama has paved the way for airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria after spy planes started operating in the country on his command, according to U.S officials.
While the White House says military action inside Syria has not yet been approved, additional intelligence on the militants is considered vital before any move can be made - especially in the northern city of Raqqa, which ISIS has named the capital of its self-declared caliphate.
Growth: Demonstrators chant their support for ISIS - the brutal Islamist militant group deemed too extreme even by Al Qaeda. U.S. President Barack Obama has now paved the way for airstrikes on ISIS targets
The move comes despite warnings from Syria’s embattled president Bashar Assad that any airstrike in the country not given his express permission would be considered an act of aggression.
Obama has so far sought a limited military campaign in neighbouring Iraq focused on protecting American diplomats and Iraqi civilians under direct threat from the brutal Islamist militant group.
But officials have not ruled out escalating military action against ISIS, which has increased its overt threats against the United States in recent weeks.
Pentagon officials have been drafting potential options for the type of action Obama may want to consider to counter ISIS. The plans include airstrikes against strategic targets.
One official said the administration has a need for reliable intelligence from Syria and called the surveillance flights an important avenue for obtaining data on the group’s size, firepower and the whereabouts of its leadership.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest yesterday said that Obama has demonstrated his willingness to order military action whenever it is deemed necessary to protect American citizens.
’That is true without regard to international boundaries,’ he added.
The White House would not comment on Obama’s decision to authorize surveillance flights over Syria yesterday, but a spokesperson speaking on condition of anonymity today said they had begun.
The U.S. stepped up its air surveillance of ISIS inside Iraq earlier this year as Obama began considering the prospect of airstrikes there.
And the administration has already run some surveillance missions over Syria - including ahead of an attempted mission to rescue Foley and other U.S. hostages earlier this summer.
The U.S. special forces who were sent into Syria to carry out the rescue mission did not find the hostages at the location where the military thought they were being held.
Officials who confirmed the failed rescue last week said the U.S. was continuing to seek out intelligence on the other hostages’ whereabouts.
Escalation: U.S. Journalist James Wright Foley and member of the Islamist militant group ISIS speak to the camera before he is brutally executed. His death appears to changed Obama’s stance on military action.
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