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Obama on ISIS in Syria: ‘We don’t have a strategy yet’

It’s too soon to say what steps the United States will take against ISIS in Syria, President Barack Obama said Thursday.

“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Obama said. “We don’t have a strategy yet.”

Obama said he’s asked U.S. military leaders to prepare “a range of options” about what the United States could do to go after ISIS in Syria, which he said has become “a safe haven” for the Islamist group.

In Syria, he said, it’s a political issue as well as a military one — and something regional leaders need to address.

Obama said he was sending U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to work on building a coalition needed to face the threat of ISIS militants.

“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,” Obama said, “even if we have differences on a range of political issues, to make sure that they’re all rooted out.”

U.S. airstrikes in Iraq are working, Obama said.

“The terrorists of (ISIS) are losing arms and equipment,” he said, and Iraqi and Kurdish forces are making inroads.

But “the idea that the United States or any outside power would perpetually defeat ISIS … is unrealistic,” Obama said, insisting that a strong, trusted Iraqi government is critical to ousting the Islamist terror group permanently.

ISIS claims mass execution in Syria

ISIS said Thursday that it has executed at least 250 Syrian soldiers at an air base in the northeastern city of Raqqa.

The group said on one of its official websites that it killed the soldiers Wednesday. It also claimed to have killed 600 government soldiers in the fight for the al Tabqa air base since August 19.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, reported that 200 Syrian soldiers and 346 ISIS fighters died in the fight for the air base. Hundreds more were wounded, the London-based activist group said.

ISIS claims that a video it posted online Thursday shows Syrian soldiers being paraded through the desert in their underwear. Another video posted by Syrian activists purportedly shows bodies lined up on the ground.

Later, ISIS posted a video that it says shows captured Peshmerga soldiers wearing orange clothing similar to that worn by by American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff in other videos posted by the militant group.

Three masked men appear to decapitate an orange-clad man in front of a mosque in Mosul.

In the video, titled “A message with blood to the leaders of the America Kurdish alliance,” ISIS demands that the Kurdish government withdraw its forces from areas where it is battling the group.

CNN could not independently confirm the claims or the authenticity of the videos.

Fighting flares near Mosul Dam

The videos come amid reports of fresh fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces near Iraq’s Mosul Dam and the burning of oil wells near the strategic town of Zummar, Iraq.

The Peshmerga are battling the militants near the town, important because of its location near a main road connecting Mosul to the Syrian border, as well as near the Mosul Dam and the strategic Ayn Zala oilfields, which ISIS forces seized from the Kurds this month, said Faud Hussein, chief of staff for Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani.

Torching the oil wells is an apparent effort by ISIS fighters to cover their tracks as Peshmerga forces press toward ISIS positions, Hussein said.

The extent of the damage to the oil fields wasn’t immediately known.

At least 50 ISIS militants were killed in fighting near the Mosul Dam on Thursday, said Hemin Hawrami, head of the Foreign Relations Office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Kurdish forces also destroyed several ISIS vehicles, he said.

One Peshmerga fighter died and five were wounded in the fighting, Hawrami said.

The fighting comes nearly two weeks after thousands of Peshmerga and Iraqi commandos ousted ISIS forces for control of the dam, a crucial facility that provides electricity for millions of people in Iraq.

Kurdish officials have credited U.S. airstrikes against ISIS — which calls itself the “Islamic State” — with helping Peshmerga forces push back against ISIS forces, whose breathtaking gains and brutal tactics captured the attention of world leaders.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama is considering airstrikes and humanitarian airdrops to help save thousands of Iraq’s Shiite Turkmen, who officials said face potential slaughter by ISIS.

ISIS fighters have besieged the town of Amerli, about 140 miles (225 kilometers) southeast of Mosul, since the Sunni extremists swept into Iraq from Syria in mid-June. The town’s fewer than 20,000 residents — half of them women and children, according to the United Nations — are without power.

“Residents are enduring harsh living conditions with severe food and water shortages, and a complete absence of medical services — and there are fears of a possible imminent massacre,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said this week.

Their situation echoes the ordeal of Iraq’s ethnic Yazidis, whose plight after they were forced to flee into the mountains to escape ISIS militants triggered U.S. aid drops and the first U.S. airstrikes against ISIS.

Similar to the chaotic scenes that played out in the Sinjar Mountains, Iraqi military helicopters have been carrying out food drops and picking up Turkmen desperate to get out.

Scant defenses

Surrounded on four sides, the 17,400 residents have had to defend themselves with only the help of local police, Masrwr Aswad of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission has said.

ISIS has vowed to push the Shiite Turkmen out, calling them heretics.

Turkmen are descendants of Turkic-speaking, traditionally nomadic people who share cultural ties with Turkey. There are Sunni and Shiite Turkmen in Iraq, and they account for up to 3% of Iraq’s population.

U.N. report alleges atrocities

On Wednesday, U.N. human rights investigators accused ISIS and Syrian government forces of committing war crimes and atrocities in their brutal fight in Syria.

The U.N. report said public executions, torture and mock crucifixions have become regular fixtures in ISIS-controlled areas of Syria. It also said that the extremist group is forcing children to fight.

“Among the most disturbing findings in this report are accounts of large training camps, where children, mostly boys, from the age of 14 are recruited and trained to fight in the ranks of ISIS along with adults,” said Paulo Pinheiro, the chairman of the U.N. commission of inquiry on Syria.

The report also accuses the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of repeatedly using chemical weapons against civilians.

The U.N. investigators said the Syrian government dropped what was thought to be chlorine gas on civilian areas on eight occasions in April.

The government forces are believed to have made particular use of barrel bombs dropped by helicopters to unleash the gas, said Vitit Muntarbhorn, a commissioner with the inquiry.

18 comments

  • trina

    8 rounds of golf in the first 11 days after the beheading of a U.S. citizen and he hasn’t had time to come up with a strategy.Wouldn’t you put Commander in Chief responsibilities BEFORE the golf?
    The only guy that’s happy is Jimmy Carter,no longer the worst President in American history.

  • Liz

    That’s because he doesn’t know what he is doing. He is overwhelmed therefore plays golf so he can ignore his job for a little while. What’s sad is that, while I didn’t vote for him either time, he really did energize our country. Now we are exhausted and numb, just waiting out the next two years.

  • Manlishi

    Obama on ISIS in Syria: ‘We don’t have a strategy yet’ No s**t? Like a community organizer was ever capable to run any aspect of the USA. Voting democrat is a sign of weakness and incompetence.

  • Robbie

    Yawn, scratch his a$$, p, take an 8 curler Republican, flush, shower and tee it up. Still cleaning up W’s messes he came up with while golfing and taking more vacations than any other president ever. You chumps are so boring! Only 2 more years before Republicans run Trump, Perry, McDonnell or another loser named Bush. Until then lets play 18 more.

  • mia

    Satan will never fight satan – the ONLY ally America has in the middle east is Israel, and the present administration is so petty and egotistical that they will go to fork-tongued Arab League and their LAP DOG, the U.N before facing Netanyahu and begging for help.

    • Solutionsnotcrybabies

      Even though every one of them are correct. The man is so worried about offending Muslims he’s rather ignore the impending threat.

  • Southern Gent

    It is not so much a Muslim thing since IS while a Muslim group is also killing other Muslims. Fact is there are no good options available to us or rather we have 2 options, bad and worse. We can not bomb our way to a solution. Ignoring IS is also not a good option. Going in by ourselves with troops is not a good solution. One could make the case that the Adminstration should have acted differently to Assad but the fact that the chemical weapons are now gone which can not be ignored as a positive action. Had IS obtained those we would have a major problem on our hands. We can not easily get a coalition together since some countires are funding IS and others are afraid (read Saudi). There are 2 major powers in Syria Assad and al-Qaida, which of those should we work with?
    Our only solution is to try and build a coalition, build up (again) the Iraq central government, and work with them to arm and suppot local tribes in the area in Iraq. Those tribes fought against a-Qaida successfully, I would guess they could do the same against IS.

    • manalishi

      “It is not so much a Muslim thing since IS while a Muslim group is also killing other Muslims” What the F is wrong with you?

  • Becky

    Obama Built This! … all along, systematically and symptomatically, since 09, with Our Money, Against US. Obama Champions Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. Gives welfare, aid & comfort, military support, and military armaments to any and all “rebels with masks”, terrorist run governments, etc.
    Example: Obama’s deliberate unauthorized “Help” to Libya “Rebels”. They “promised” to Repay.
    They Attacked US with Gaddafi’s Infamous armory and more infamous chemical weapons arsenal
    (used in Syria to provoke a conflict with Russia) deliberately left behind by the Most Intelligent US Commander-in-Chief. Now, covertly, uses “word play”, as Confusion Tactic, for all the new and improved Muslim/Terrorist/Islamic pop ups Terrorists; “Islamic State”, ISIS, etc.
    Follow the money… trace weapons… and it IS US Tax Money, used and abused Against US, and US registered Armaments. The enemy within is funding our enemies.

  • Becky

    “Duh, I don’t have a Clue!”
    “My Sergeant Schultz Routine for Executive Management of any and all Federal agencies, department, activities, and Department of Defense is running amuck; and not Hiding ME any longer.”
    “I need to again run, hide, escape, refuse, and head for my Posh, hidden, Bunkers.
    Let Media Govern for me.”

    • Becky

      Surely you jest. Above my pay grad.
      I am not the heralded and celebrated “Most Intelligent”, commensurate “Legal Eagle”, Apologist, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and Not the US President/Commander-in-Chief. HE actively solicited for the JOB, twice.
      Basically imparted that He, and only He could provide His great Hope and Change.
      I do not get enjoy all the perks, entitlements, grandeur, and afforded life style of the rich and famous doled out for the actual job, obligations, responsibilities and accountabilities ….that are always ceremoniously REFUSED.
      Just get to PAY. Obama’s Omnipotent.
      But would give him “A Clue”: Stated, published, mission, goal, and objectives, strategically planned and carried out, as planned. NO sense to be “In IT, not to Win It”. BULL ain’t ChisA anymore and the World SEES IT,
      even if YOU can’t..

    • Becky

      The entire US Government serves as Advisors to the President on any issue, at any time, 24/7. That IS
      a mission objective. He shuns those advisors for his own council, or that of his own Additionally, required,
      tax paid, hand select CZARS. UN resolutions, or other subversives.

  • G W

    Remember when the chickenhawks were thumping their chests and calling for supportuing the rebels? Doesn’t this remind you of the Raygun days when he funded the Taliban and created OBL’s Al Qaeda?

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