BAGHDAD: U.S. President Barack Obama called Wednesday for an international front against jihadists in Iraq and Syria, after they beheaded a second American reporter. Britain and France were also weighing up military action.
“We know that if we are joined by the international community, we can continue to shrink [ISIS’s] sphere of influence, its effectiveness, its financing, its military capabilities,” Obama said.
“And the question is going to be making sure we’ve got the right strategy, but also making sure that we’ve got the international will to do it.”
Britain, which has one of its nationals under threat of beheading, said it would not rule out taking part in airstrikes if necessary.
“I can assure you that we will look at every possible option to protect this person,” Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said.
And French President Francois Hollande likewise raised the prospect of a military response to the threat posed by ISIS.
“The head of state underlined the importance of a political, humanitarian and if necessary military response in accordance with international law” to fight against ISIS, a statement from the presidency said.
Obama pledged that justice would be done to the killers of 31-year-old reporter Steven Sotloff, wherever they hid and however long it took.
ISIS on Tuesday posted video footage on the Internet of Sotloff’s beheading, confirmed as authentic by Washington, sparking outrage around the world.
Israeli media reported that the family was Jewish and that Sotloff himself had held joint U.S.-Israeli nationality, but ISIS made no mention of either in its video.
The video warned that a British hostage would be next unless London backed off from its support for Washington’s air campaign.
Hammond said British airstrikes were now an option.
“We will look very carefully at the options available to us to support the legitimate government of Iraq and Kurdistan in defending themselves,” the foreign minister said.
“If we judge that airstrikes could be beneficial, could be the best way to do that, then we will certainly consider them but we have made no decision to do so at the moment.”
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the United States was hoping for unanimous approval of a U.N. resolution calling for global action to prevent the growing “phenomenon” of foreigners traveling to fight for ISIS when Obama hosts a Security Council summit on Sept. 25.
A top U.S. intelligence official, meanwhile, said ISIS jihadists in Iraq and Syria posed a genuine threat to the West but were “not invincible,” as had been demonstrated by American airstrikes.
And there is no “credible” evidence that ISIS fighters are plotting an imminent attack on the United States, said Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counter-Terrorism Center.
After the posting of the Sotloff video, the White House announced Obama had authorized about 350 more U.S. troops to beef up security at U.S. diplomatic facilities in Baghdad and protect personnel.
In violence on the ground Wednesday, 10 children were among 16 people killed in an ISIS-controlled area of eastern Syria, an activist group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said a regime air raid had hit a bus on the road between Deir al-Zor and Damascus.
Most of the children killed in the attack in the Shula area were said to be under the age of 10.
State television said the ISIS had killed the passengers, putting the death toll at 13, without specifying how they were killed. It said most of those killed were women and children and said they were from the Sheiatat tribe, which has engaged in clashes with ISIS in Deir al-Zor.
ISIS controls large parts of Deir al-Zor, including Shula, and has seen its strongholds in the province and elsewhere come under attack in stepped-up regime air raids in recent weeks.
The Observatory said that another government air strike in the east of the province Wednesday afternoon had destroyed a building being used as a headquarters and a prison by ISIS.
The strike, which took place in the village of Ghareebeh, killed at least five ISIS militants, and allowed some of the people who were being held in the prison to escape, according to the Observatory.
In Damascus province, the death toll in regime shelling on the city of Douma rose to at least seven, including a child, the group said.