Obama 'ready' to launch air strikes in Syria

Obama 'ready' to launch air strikes in Syria

WASHINGTON - United States President Barack Obama is prepared to authorise air strikes in Syria as part of a strategy to battle the Islamic State (IS), two major American newspapers reported late on Tuesday.

The New York Times and The Washington Post said that Mr Obama is willing to expand to Syria the campaign of air strikes that the US has so far limited to IS targets in Iraq over the past month.

The Islamic militant group has captured vast expanses of territory in both countries.

The Times quoted a senior administration official and The Post cited foreign-policy experts who met the President this week.

Mr Obama was expected to lay out his strategy for fighting IS in a prime-time speech to the nation last night (this morning, Singapore time).

In his speech, he will try to rally Americans behind another war in a region he has long sought to leave, backed by what Washington hopes will be a coalition of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and Gulf Arab allies.

Michele Flournoy - a former undersecretary of defence for policy under Mr Obama, who was among those who attended a dinner with him on Monday - said he is determined to fight IS "wherever their strategic targets are", according to The Post.

"This is not an organisation that respects international boundaries," said Ms Flournoy, who left the administration in 2012.

"You cannot leave them with a safe haven... I expect him to be very candid."

The Times said that people briefed on the President's plans described "a long-term campaign far more complex than the targeted strikes the US has used against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere".

The US' bid to "degrade and destroy" IS began yesterday, with Secretary of State John Kerry arriving in Baghdad to begin a tour of the Middle East to build military, political and financial support to defeat the militants.

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