Syria, Iran slam US strat­egy in fight­ing mil­i­tants

The Covington News - - WORLD -

DA­M­AS­CUS, Syria (AP) — Syr­ian and Ira­nian of­fi­cials crit­i­cized the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion on Thurs­day for ex­clud­ing them from an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion com­ing to­gether in the bat­tle against the Is­lamic State group, while a state-run Syr­ian daily warned that unau­tho­rized U.S. airstrikes on Syria may trig­ger the “first sparks of fire” in the re­gion.

The strong­est re­ac­tion, how­ever, came from Rus­sia, Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad’s main in­ter­na­tional ally. A Rus­sian For­eign Min­istry state­ment said such mil­i­tary ac­tion with­out a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion “would be an act of ag­gres­sion and fla­grant vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.”

Syria’s main Western-backed op­po­si­tion group, mean­while, wel­comed Obama’s first-ever au­tho­riza­tion of U.S. airstrikes in Syria, say­ing it stands “ready and will­ing” to part­ner with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to de­feat the mil­i­tants.

But the Syr­ian Na­tional Coali­tion said that airstrikes need to be cou­pled with a strat­egy for ul­ti­mately top­pling As­sad.

Kur­dish politi­cians in Iraq sim­i­larly praised Obama’s an­nounce­ment of wider airstrikes and as­sis­tance to Iraqi forces.

“We wel­come this new strat­egy,” said Hosh­yar Ze­bari, a Kur­dish politi­cian and one of Iraq’s newly-ap­pointed deputy prime min­is­ters. “We think it will work with the co­op­er­a­tion of the in­dige­nous lo­cal forces like Iraqi Se­cu­rity Forces, the Kur­dish pesh­merga and other forces.”

“There is an ur­gent need for ac­tion. Peo­ple can­not sit on the fence. This is a mor­tal threat to every­body,” he told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

The U.S. be­gan launch­ing limited airstrikes against Is­lamic State tar­gets in Iraq early last month at the re­quest of for­mer Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki. The Amer­i­can fire­power pro­vided a sig­nif­i­cant boost to Iraqi forces, in­clud­ing the Kur­dish pesh­merga fight­ers, bat­tling to win back land lost to the mil­i­tant group.

The Sunni ex­trem­ists seized roughly a third of Iraq and Syria in their ram­page this sum­mer, declar­ing a self-styled caliphate in ar­eas un­der their con­trol where they ap­ply their strict in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Is­lamic law.

In a prime-time ad­dress to the na­tion from the White House late Wed­nes­day, Obama an­nounced he was au­tho­riz­ing U.S. airstrikes inside Syria for the first time, along with ex­panded strikes in Iraq as part of “a steady, re­lent­less ef­fort” to root out Is­lamic State ex­trem­ists and curb their reign of ter­ror.

He also again urged Congress to au­tho­rize a pro­gram to train and arm Syr­ian rebels who are fight­ing both the Is­lamic State mil­i­tants and As­sad’s forces.

Obama did not say when U.S. forces would be­gin strik­ing at tar­gets inside Syria.

Syr­ian Min­is­ter for Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, Ali Haider, warned that “any ac­tion with­out the ap­proval of the Syr­ian gov­ern­ment is an ag­gres­sion on Syria.” Speak­ing to re­porters Thurs­day, he said in­ter­na­tional law dic­tates that any mil­i­tary ac­tion needs Da­m­as­cus’ ap­proval, and should also be co­or­di­nated with the gov­ern­ment.

Obama has ruled out any part­ner­ship with As­sad in the fight against the Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, say­ing the Syr­ian leader will “never re­gain the le­git­i­macy” he has lost.

“I won­der how an in­ter­na­tional coali­tion can be formed and Syria, which is tar­geted by ter­ror­ism in depth, is shunned aside?” Syr­ian law­maker Sharif She­hadeh told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

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