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Obama Will Consider Strikes in Syria Against Terror Group

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey hold a press briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 21, 2014. Dempsey said Islamic State couldn’t be defeated unless the U.S. and international partners take on the militants in Syria as well as Iraq. Photographer: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Aug. 22 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama will consider airstrikes in Syria if needed in the battle against the Islamic State terrorists who beheaded an American journalist.

“Any strategy to deal with the ISIL organization has to deal with both sides of the border in Iraq and Syria,” Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told reporters today. While Obama hasn’t approved such a strike yet, “we’re not going to be restricted by borders,” he said.

The Islamic State, also known by acronyms such as ISIL, released a video on Aug. 19 of journalist James Foley’s beheading, and declared in an Internet posting that he was executed because of U.S. airstrikes against the group in Iraq that began earlier this month. It wasn’t clear when Foley was killed. U.S. officials believe he was killed in Syria.

Obama authorized a rescue mission of Foley and other Americans held hostage in Syria. The attempt early this summer failed when U.S. forces found the hostages had been moved. The U.S., as is its policy, refused to pay captors a ransom demand of $133 million.

Foley’s beheading, Rhodes said today, was a “terrorist attack” against America.

“He’s an American and we see that as an attack on our country when one of our own is killed like that,” said Rhodes, who spoke to reporters on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where Obama is on vacation.

Dempsey’s Comments

Yesterday, U.S. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Islamic State couldn’t be defeated unless the U.S. and international partners take on the militants in Syria as well as Iraq.

Rhodes declined to say whether Obama was seeking congressional authorization for additional actions in Syria. The strikes in Iraq were at the invitation of that government. The president is unlikely to get a similar invitation from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Obama has called on to step down and threatened with airstrikes.

“As we’ve done against al-Qaeda around the world, we’ll take whatever action is necessary to protect our people,” Rhodes said.

U.S. military forces carried out three airstrikes on Islamic terrorists today in the vicinity of Iraq’s Mosul Dam, the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, said in a statement. There have been 93 airstrikes since Aug. 8.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net; Roger Runningen in Washington at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net Larry Liebert

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