In the United States mission to topple the Islamic State, White House spokesman Josh Earnest wouldn't rule out hitting Syrian government targets and said that U.S. and Iranian officials have had discussions on the “sidelines.”
Earnest talked about the two countries a day after President Barack Obama announced the fight against the Islamic State terrorist group would extend beyong Iraq into Syria. The Sunni militant group that has carried out terrorist groups throughout Iraq and Syrian and recently beheaded two American journalists.
During the press briefing Thursday, a reporter asked if Obama is “ruling in or ruling out possible targeted air strikes on Syrian government forces” if it contributed to the broader mission of taking out the Islamic State.
“The focal point of the operations that the president has authorized are related to preventing ISIL from obtaining a safe haven," Earnest said. "And if there are elements of ISIL forces, or as we've demonstrated in Iraq, other logistical elements that could be utilized of the ISIL fighting forces that could be neutralized through the use of American military power, that's something the president won't hesitate to order.”
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is battling both the Islamic State and the more moderate Syrian rebels. The moderate rebels will also be battling the Islamic State with U.S. assistance.
Another neighboring country, Iran, which the United States is currently engaged in nuclear negotiations with, has been in informal talks with the U.S. about opposing the Islamic State, but there will be no military coordination, Earnest said.
“Iran like other nations in the region does have an interest in not seeing an organization like ISIL wreaking havoc in their neighborhood and potentially on their borders. Iran like the other countries in the region does have an interest in degrading and destroying ISIL,” Earnest said of the Shia majority country. “That said, the administration has previously, and I will say again, ruled out military coordination between the United States and Iran.”
He said he would most like to see Iran be supportive of an “inclusive and unified government in Iraq.”
“There are however, been conversations that have taken place between Iranian officials and U.S. officials on the sidelines in the ongoing P5+1 talks,” Earnest said, referring to the nuclear talks. “But I do want to emphasize that those conversations took place on the sidelines of those talks, not in the context of those talks.”
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