Obama ready to authorize air strikes on ISIS in Syria
President Obama reportedly is prepared to expand airstrikes against the Islamic State into Syria and broaden the campaign against the group in Iraq, according to published reports ahead of a prime-time address to the nation in which the president will be expected to lay out an expanded military and political strategy to confront the militants who seized large swathes of territory over the summer.
The New York Times, citing a senior administration official, reported that the president was willing to order airstrikes against the militants, also known as ISIS, inside Syrian territory. The Associated Press also reported that it was likely that Obama would order the expanded airstrikes, in apparent defiance of a warning from Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s government not to do so without their permission.
Administration officials have been working in recent days to enlist the support of the nation’s political establishment to help sell their strategy to the American public, which Obama will address in a prime-time speech Wednesday night. The president met with the top four congressional leaders Tuesday, while his aides held briefings on Capitol Hill.
The intensity of the outreach amounted to a tacit acknowledgment by administration officials that they have been slow in formulating a strategy to confront the militants and in conveying that vision more broadly. The Islamic State controls wide swaths of territory in both countries, but the United States has so far limited its military engagement to Iraq, as Obama has been reluctant to intervene in Syria’s civil war.
Mr. Obama’s speech to the nation, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, is the culmination of weeks of anguished internal deliberations, followed by days of intense lobbying of allies by the president — at a NATO meeting in Wales, with Congress, and even over a three-hour dinner Monday night with members of the Democratic and Republican foreign-policy establishment.
The White House has been galvanized by the beheadings of two American journalists, James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff, each by a masked ISIS fighter. The harrowing images, captured on video and circulated around the world, have turned American public opinion in favor of military action against the militants, recent polls show, and appear to have moved a president who had long resisted military engagement in Syria. And the United States has conducted airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq.