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Obama Signals No Immediate Airstrikes in Syria

  • VOA News

President Barack Obama, Aug. 28, 2014.

President Barack Obama, Aug. 28, 2014.

President Barack Obama is downplaying the possibility of imminent U.S. airstrikes against Islamic extremists in Syria, as the insurgents released a new video appearing to show another brutal beheading.

Speaking to reporters Thursday at the White House, Obama said he is still working on a comprehensive plan to deal with the group.

The president said the U.S. will continue strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq, which he said have dealt a blow to the militants, but added that recent media speculation about whether the U.S. would soon expand the operation to Syria is presumptive.

On Friday, the SITE Intelligence Group said the militants posted a new video appearing to show three masked men beheading a captured Kurdish soldier. The monitoring service says the video warned Kurdish leader Massud Barzani to stop allying with U.S. forces.

The group has repeatedly released bloody execution videos, including one showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley. It has threatened to carry out more beheadings if the U.S. does not stop its airstrikes in Iraq.

U.S. officials say they are studying possible limited military action in Syria. Last week, Obama authorized air surveillance on Islamist fighters there.

A call for regional cooperation

At his news conference Thursday, the president insisted U.S. force alone cannot deal with the threat, saying the region must work together.

"This should be a wake-up call to Sunni, to Shia, to everybody, that a group like ISIS is beyond the pale, that they have no vision or ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people. And as a consequence, we've got to all join together, even if we have differences on a range of political issues, to make sure they're rooted out," said Obama

Obama spoke before meeting with his national security team on the crises in Iraq and Syria. There was no word about what was decided on at the meeting.

Syria said this week it would welcome U.S. and British help in fighting the militants, but only in coordination with Damascus. It says a unilateral U.S. attack would violate its airspace and could lead to an attempt to shoot down American warplanes.

U.S. officials have said they would not first consult Syria as President Bashar al-Assad has lost the authority to lead.

Calls for greater U.S. intervention have been mounting as the extremists continue their campaign, which U.N. officials have said amounts to ethnic and religious cleansing.

On Friday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon again expressed outrage at the group's "brutal killings of civilians" in Iraq and Syria. Ban said whole communities that had lived for generations in northern Iraq are being forced to flee or face death just for their religious beliefs.

Islamic State waterboarding

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported Friday that the Islamic State group has waterboarded at least four Western hostages held in Syria.

The paper said the hostages included James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded by an Islamic State militant.

The Post cited people with firsthand knowledge of what happened to the hostages.

Waterboarding, or simulated drowning, is regarded by many, including President Obama and international rights groups, as a form of torture.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency used the interrogation method on terror suspects arrested after the September 11 attacks in 2001.

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