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 of Iraq and Syria.
“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 ISIS 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 defense 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 ISIS. 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 sufficed on Tuesday, he had indicated the the US policy will to contain the ISIS for now, not finish it or destroy it, as stated by other officials in his administration such as secretary of state John Kerry.