The White House continued to ratchet up its rhetoric against the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL), calling the group’s brutal execution of American journalist James Foley a “terrorist attack” against the United States.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, told reporters Friday that the U.S. would not be “restricted to borders” in responding to terror threats emerging from the group. He hinted that any long-term strategy to confront ISIS has to “deal with both sides of the border” of Iraq and Syria.
“When you see somebody killed in such a horrific way, that represents a terrorist attack. That represents a terrorist attack against our country and against an American citizen,” Rhodes said in a press conference from Martha’s Vineyard, where Obama is vacationing through the weekend.
“If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you wherever you are,” he added.
Rhodes’ comments were the latest signal the U.S. could consider going after the group across the border in Syria. On Thursday, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel called the group “beyond anything we’ve seen” in terms of its military sophistication and funding.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the U.S.’s top military general, said the group would need to be confronted in Syria as part of any long-term strategy to “contain” ISIS.
“This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” Dempsey said. “Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organisation that resides in Syria? The answer is no.”
Rhodes said, as of now, that Obama has not been presented with military options aside from the U.S.’s ongoing campaign in Iraq, but did not rule out military action there.
“We’re actively considering what is necessary to deal with that threat, and we’re not going to be restricted by borders,” Rhodes said.
On Friday, U.S. Central Command said three more airstrikes had been carried out near the key strategic stronghold of the Mosul Dam, bringing the total number of U.S. airstrikes in Iraq to 93 over the past two weeks.
The Obama administration has clearly stiffened its rhetoric against ISIS over the past few weeks, as the group has made gains in Iraq and after the brutal murder of Foley. In a statement on Foley’s death Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the group would be “crushed.” Obama compared the group on Wednesday to a “cancer” that had “no place in the 21st century.”
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