A top national security adviser to President Barack Obama said on Friday that if needed the US will undertake military action in Syria in pursuit of the Islamic State (IS).
“If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are … we’re not going to be restricted by borders,” said deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes at a news briefing on Martha’s Vineyard, where President Obama is vacationing.
This tracks closely with chairman of the joint chiefs Martin Dempsey’s statement on Thursday that the only effective way to crush the IS was to also go after it in Syria.
Neither Dempsey nor Rhodes, however, said military action — essentially airstrikes — had been indeed ordered on Syrian positions of the outfit that executed journalist James Foley.
Secretary of defence Chuck Hagel, who was at that briefing with Dempsey, also said “all options” were on the table, including airstrikes, but did not go into specifics.
To that extent, Rhodes’s point on Friday was an old one, reiteration of a stated US position: that the US reserves the right to take direct action to protect Americans anywhere in the world (including raiding Osama bin Laden’s hideout in Pakistan, and killing him there).
If US forces were to indeed go into Syria, it won’t surprise anyone. Not after the White House confirmed earlier in the week a Special Operations team went into Syria in July to rescue American hostages held by the IS. The mission failed only because the hostages had been moved to another location.
If needed, it was clear from Rhodes’s remarks, the US would go into Syria if needed. But it wasn’t clear yet if the President was leaning towards that option.
Speaking after the execution video of an American journalist sufficed on Tuesday, he had indicated the the US policy will be to contain the IS for now, not finish it or destroy it, as stated by other officials in his administration such as secretary of state John Kerry.
“We have to have our near-term goals that put the safety of Americans front and center,” said Rhodes.
“And then in the long term, we'll be working with our partners to defeat this organization,” he added. It will take time “to fully evict them from the communities where they operate”.
Foley's killing, he added, was "an attack on our country."