Syria reacts to airstrikes in its territory
Isis | The Damascus government appears supportive of the international coalition targeting ISIS in its homeland
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 9/23/14, 10:24 am
UPDATE: The United States gave Syria advance warning before airstrikes began against ISIS in its territory, the Syrian government said this morning.
According to the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Washington told Damascus’ envoy to the United Nations shortly before the U.S.-led aerial assault began. It also said Secretary of State John Kerry sent a heads-up to Syria’s top diplomat via Iraq’s foreign minister. The U.S. government has not confirmed the communication took place.
The U.S. has consistently said it would not coordinate with the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against ISIS. Al-Assad has close ties with Iran and backing from Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the airstrikes started in Syria, U.S. officials emphasized it had the help of five other Arab nations: Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.
In a speech from the White House this morning, President Barack Obama said the international cooperation in the airstrikes against militants in Syria “makes it clear to the world this is not America's fight alone.”
But if the U.S. is keeping its distance from al-Assad, the Damascus government appears to be trying to position itself on the same side as the international coalition fighting ISIS.
“The Syrian Arab Republic says it stands with any international effort to fight terrorism, no matter what a group is called—whether Daesh or [the al-Qaeda-linked] Nusra Front or something else,” the government’s statement said. Daesh is an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
What the Syrian government has not explained is what one of its fighter jets was doing over Israel earlier today. Both the governments confirmed the Israeli military shot down a Syrian plane this morning over the Golan Heights, an area Israel seized from Syria in 1967.
OUR EARLIER REPORT (10:31 p.m. EDT, Sept. 22): An international coalition has begun airstrikes in Syria against ISIS, U.S. military officials said this evening.
“I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber, and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary. “Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time.” Kirby said the military made the decision to strike early Monday.
The strikes are part of the expanded campaign that President Barack Obama authorized to disrupt and destroy the militants with ISIS, also called ISIL or Islamic State, who have slaughtered thousands of people who refuse to adopt their Islamist ideology. ISIS has beheaded Westerners, including two American journalists, and declared a caliphate across parts of Syria and Iraq.
The U.S. began airstrikes against in ISIS in Iraq in August, but so far has not used military intervention against the terror group in Syria, where it formed. Last week, both houses of Congress authorized a plan by Obama to strike ISIS in Syria and to arm rebel groups there that could fight against it.
Syria’s government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, is not cooperating in the attack, nor is al-Assad known to have given his approval of the strikes. For the past three years, he has been fighting a brutal, chaotic civil war against rebel groups. That lawless environment in Syria is credited for allowing ISIS to gain strength and followers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.