The Obama administration is pressing U.S. allies to increase their support for moderate rebel groups in Syria, as well as possible military operations, according to a published report.
The New York Times reported late Tuesday that White House officials believe that Great Britain and Australia would be willing to join the United States in a campaign of airstrikes in Syria, while the administration hoped that Turkey would give it access to key military bases.
The Times also reported that the U.S. has asked Turkish government to help seal that country's border with Syria, which has proven to be an easy crossing point for foreign militants looking to join up with the Islamic State, the militant group formerly known as ISIS, in northern Syria. The paper reported that the White House is also seeking intelligence help from Jordan, as well as financial support for groups like the moderate Free Syrian Army from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
The political calculus of such maneuvering among America's Western allies is unclear. Last year, British Prime Minister David Cameron experienced one of the most humiliating defeats of his premiership when a motion to join potential airstrikes against Bashar al-Assad's government was rejected by Parliament. However, the atrocities committed by ISIS since its overrunning of broad swathes of Syria and Iraq, have seemingly galvanized Cameron to press for action. In a recent opinion piece in the Sunday Telegraph, Cameron said that Britain was "in the middle of a generational struggle against a poisonous and extremist ideology."
Late Monday, the Pentagon began sending surveillance drones on flights over Syria to gather intelligence on ISIS positions after Obama approved their use over the weekend. The Times cited a report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that “non-Syrian spy planes” on Monday carried out surveillance of ISIS positions in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
The Assad government in Damascus has warned the U.S. not to strike ISIS positions on Syrian territory without asking permission. However, on Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki emphatically rejected that condition, telling reporters "We're not going to ask permission from the Syrian regime." However, Psaki also noted that Obama had not made a final decision on whether to approve airstrikes in Syria.
The Times also reported that the White House was also close to a decision to authorize airstrikes and aid drops around the town of Amerli in northern Iraq, home to a community of ethnic Turkmens, which has been besieged by ISIS for more than two months. The Turkmens, as Shiite Muslims, are thought of as infidels by the Sunni members of ISIS.
Over the weekend, the United Nations' special representative to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said the situation in Amerli was "desperate, and called for "immediate action to prevent the possible massacre of its citizens." The BBC reported Saturday that the town had no electricity or drinking water, and is running out of food and medical supplies.