United States won't let borders hamper fight against extremists
By Robert Burns ,AP
August 24, 2014, 12:01 am TWN
WASHINGTON -- A senior White House official raised the possibility Friday of a broader American military campaign that targets an Islamic extremist group's bases in Syria, saying the U.S. would take whatever action is necessary to protect national security.
"We're not going to be restricted by borders," said Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser.
The White House said the president has received no military options beyond those he authorized earlier this month for limited airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and military aid to Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Thus far, the United States has avoided military involvement in Syria's three-year civil war. But faced with the Islamic State making gains across the region and the beheading of an American journalist, the administration's resistance may be weakening.
Rhodes spoke a day after Obama's top military adviser warned the extremists cannot be defeated without "addressing" their sanctuary in Syria.
Many prominent Republicans and some Democrats have called on Obama to hit back harder at the Islamic State militants.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a prospective 2016 presidential candidate, said in an interview Friday that attacking their supply lines, command and control centers and economic assets inside Syria "is at the crux of the decision" for Obama. The risk of "getting sucked into a new war" is outweighed, he said, by the risk of inaction.
To hit back at the group, Obama has stressed military assistance to Iraq and efforts to create a new, inclusive government in Baghdad that can persuade Sunnis to leave the insurgency. He also has sought to frame the Islamic State threat in terms that convince other countries — not just in the Mideast but also in Europe — of the need to create a broad coalition against the extremists.
Lukman Faily, the Iraqi ambassador to Washington, said in an interview this week that Baghdad's new leadership has been told to expect additional military help once the new government is seated, possibly in early September. But an Iraqi counteroffensive may yield only temporary gains if the Islamic State retreats to areas of Syria beyond the government's control.