Get Ready to Rumble, ISIS! President Obama Wants a New Plan on his Desk to Whip Your Butts ASAP

President Obama (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
President Obama (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

Leading U.S. officials now believe that America has to expand its air war against ISIS into Syria, but nobody knows yet how we can do it… or what will happen next.

President Obama wants to decide by the end of the week whether or not his war in Iraq against the Islamic State will expand to the group’s haven in eastern Syria. But nearly everything about the potential military campaign is still in flux, administration officials tell The Daily Beast—from the goals of the effort to the intelligence needed to carry it out.

ISIS’s murder of American photojournalist James Foley and its continued military expansion have pushed the administration into an urgent drive to take action against the Islamic extremists in Syria. Despite the new urgency, the plans for such a strike are far from complete. In a series of high-level meetings Tuesday—including one gathering of the Principals’ Committee, the administration’s top national security officials—White House staffers and cabinet secretaries alike struggled to come up with answers to basic questions about the potential strikes. Among the unresolved issues: whether the U.S. has reliable intelligence on ISIS targets in Syria; what the objectives and limits of the strikes would be; and how the administration would defend the action legally, diplomatically, and politically.

One huge unanswered question is whether the president will order the attacks, or whether he will ultimately balk, as he did this time last year after preparing for limited strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime. One administration official working on Syria policy said the purpose of the meetings Tuesday was “to convince one man, Barack Obama,” to follow through on the rhetoric and widen the aims of the war to include destroying ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. While Obama and his top officials have said they will need to address the threat of ISIS on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border, Obama has not said specifically what that means.

Two administration officials tell The Daily Beast that the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community are developing options to widen the war to be considered by Obama’s war cabinet this week. On Monday evening, The Wall Street Journalfirst reported—and The Daily Beast has confirmed—that the U.S. has flown surveillance aircraft into Syrian territory, part of the administration’s rush to come up with intelligence that could be used in any strikes.

Unlike in Iraq—where U.S. airstrikes are closely coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground—the Obama administration has not yet consulted with ISIS’s opponents in Syria about possible strikes.

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SOURCE: Josh Rogin, Eli Lake
The Daily Beast

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