Obama says 'no strategy yet' against IS jihadists
August 30, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
DAMASCUS, Syria--U.S. President Barack Obama admitted Thursday that he still does not have a strategy to fight Islamic State jihadists in Syria, as the militants boasted they had executed scores of Syrian troops — the latest in a string of atrocities that have shocked the world.
Dampening hopes of imminent air strikes in Syria, Obama said he was still developing a comprehensive plan to defeat IS, which has also overrun large swathes of Iraq.
The civil war in Syria has killed some 191,000 people since it erupted in March 2011 with President Bashar al-Assad's bloody effort to put down an uprising.
But it has taken on another dimension as IS jihadists exploited the power vacuum to move in, unleashing a series of atrocities including the brutal execution of U.S. journalist James Foley.
The chaotic situation on the ground was underlined by the seizing of 43 U.N. peacekeepers on the Golan Heights by rival Islamist rebels, led by Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
They were part of a mission that has monitored an armistice between Syrian and Israeli troops on the strategic plateau for decades.
"We don't have a strategy yet," Obama said ahead of a meeting with security chiefs.
But he said he was dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East to build support in the region against the IS jihadists.
The jihadists posted grisly video footage on the Internet of scores of bodies heaped in the desert they boasted were those of Syrian soldiers they captured and killed following the seizure of Tabqa air base.
They have repeatedly posted gruesome videos, which have appalled international opinion but served as a propaganda tool to recruit volunteers.
Britain-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said IS had executed at least 160 soldiers, among some 500 who had made a desperate bid to escape to government-held territory after their defeat last Sunday.
'No need to choose between IS and Assad'
The footage posted by IS showed a close-up of some 20 bodies, but then panned out to show scores more.
Other shots showed men barefoot and dressed only in their underwear walking in line with their hands on their head in surrender, escorted by jihadist gunmen.
One held up the black flag of the jihadists. Others chanted: "Islamic State forever."
Tabqa was the last position in Raqa province to fall to the jihadists, who now control a vast swathe of northeastern Syria and Iraq.