WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is debating a more robust intervention in Syria, including possible American airstrikes, in a significant escalation of its weeks-long military assault on the Islamic extremist group that has destabilized neighboring Iraq and killed an American journalist, officials said Friday.
While President Obama has long resisted being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, officials said recent advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had made clear that it represents a threat to the interests of the United States and its allies. The beheading of James Foley, the American journalist, has contributed to what officials called a “new context” for a challenge that has long divided the president’s team.
What is now under consideration would be a different goal: not to punish Mr. Assad’s government or to further his ouster but to cripple ISIS. As it happens, that would actually work in Mr. Assad’s favor, since ISIS has been one of the most effective of the various factions fighting Syrian government forces. But it might be more directly in the interest of the United States, given the threat posed by an ISIS caliphate whose brutality was captured in the video image of a masked man beheading Mr. Foley…
“That would actually work in Mr. Assad’s favor.”