WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A top Syrian official says his country would allow the United States to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants only if President Bashar Assad’s government is notified first.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem told reporters during a press conference in Damascus Monday that they would “welcome” the strikes against the terror group that has carved out territory in both Syria and Iraq.
“Syria is ready to cooperate and coordinate with regional and international efforts to combat terror in accordance with U.N. resolutions and respect of Syrian sovereignty,” al-Moallem stated, according to CBS News.
He continued: “Everyone is welcome, including Britain and the United States, to take action against ISIS and Nusra with a prior full coordination with the Syrian government.”
Al-Moallem warned that if the Assad government was not notified about airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, they would consider that “aggression” toward their country. The 73-year-old foreign minister also indicated that American journalist James Foley would still be alive if they were notified about the unsuccessful rescue attempt this past summer.
“I can assure you that had there been a coordination between the U.S. administration and the Syrian government, the reported rescue operation by Washington wouldn’t have failed,” al-Moallem stated, CBS News reports.
ISIS released a video last week showing the beheading of Foley.
Gen. Martin Dempsey said Sunday that once he determines the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants in Iraq have become a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, he will recommend the U.S. military move directly against the group in Syria.
But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that right now, he still believes the insurgent group is still more a regional threat and is not plotting or planning attacks against either the U.S. or Europe.
Speaking on a military plane en route to Afghanistan, Dempsey provided more detail into his thinking about the Islamic militants who have stormed across Iraq, operating out of safe havens in Syria.
So far, the Obama administration has restricted its military action against the militants to specific operations within Iraq, but concerns have increased as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extended its reach, taking control of a swath of land stretching from Syria across the border and deep into western and northern Iraq.
“I can tell you with great clarity and certainty that if that threat existed inside of Syria that it would certainly be my strong recommendation that we would deal with it,” said Dempsey. “I have every confidence that the president of the United States would deal with it.”
The group took over Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, in June, and has since declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, in territory under its control in Iraq and Syria.
“As we are the sons of this region, we know better when and where a strike would be useful,” al-Moallem said.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., called on President Barack Obama to take steps to eliminate ISIS.
“A containment strategy is not going to cut it,” Ayotte told CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” “We need a strategy that’s going to expand the airstrikes, support the Kurds further…[and] more support and enhancement for the moderate opposition in Syria to deal with the sanctuaries in Syria. We have to do that if we want to defeat ISIS.”
Such a strategy, “starts with presidential leadership, but as a member of Congress I think we have a responsibility to say that we’re going to put the protection of this nation first beyond partisan divide.”
Ayotte continued: “There’s a disconnect with sequester from the threats we face around the world and the resources we are going to need to fight this threat.”
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., joined his Republican colleague in urging the president to form a strategy to “finish ISIS off.”
“What I want to hear from the president is that he has a strategy to finish ISIS off, to defeat ISIS,” Ryan said. “I don’t want to be an armchair general and tell you how this needs to be done, but I would reference the fact that Dempsey did say that to do this correctly that Syria is going to have to be part of this equation.”
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