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Dempsey: We will act if Islamic group threatens US


ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) - Gen. Martin Dempsey says that once he determines the Islamic State militants in Iraq have become a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, he will recommend the U.S. military move directly against the group in Syria.

But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that right now, he still believes the insurgent group is still more a regional threat and is not plotting or planning attacks against either the U.S. or Europe.

Speaking on a military plane en route to Afghanistan Sunday, Dempsey provided more detail into his thinking about the Islamic militants who have stormed across Iraq, operating out of safe havens in Syria.

Dempsey did not rule out strikes for any other critical reasons, but listed a homeland threat as one of the key triggers for any military action in Syria.

Gen. Dempsey: 'Syria Vital to Defeat Islamic State'

So far, the Obama administration has restricted its military action against the militants to specific operations within Iraq, but concerns have increased as the Islamic State group extended its reach, taking control of a swath of land stretching from Syria across the border and deep into western and northern Iraq.

The group took over Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, in June, and has since declared an Islamic state, or caliphate, in territory under its control in Iraq and Syria.

Dempsey also told reporters traveling with him that he believes that key allies in the region - including Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia - will join the U.S. in quashing the Islamic State group.

"I think ISIS has been so brutal, and has wrapped itself in a radical religious legitimacy that clearly threatens everybody I just mentioned, that I think they will be willing partners," said Dempsey, expressing optimism for the first time that the Arab nations would join in the conflict. ISIS is an acronym for the Islamic State group.

At a Pentagon news conference last Thursday, Dempsey said the surging Islamic State group has an "apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision" in the Middle East and cannot be defeated unless confronted head-on in Syria.

"They can be contained, not in perpetuity," he said at the time.

"To your question," he told a reporter, "can they be defeated without addressing that part of their organization which resides in Syria? The answer is no. That will have to be addressed on both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border.

"And that will come when we have a coalition in the region that takes on the task," he said.

He contrasted the Islamic State group to the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which has plotted and attempted attacks against the U.S. and Europe. As a result, the U.S. has conducted counterterrorism strikes against the group within Yemen.

Dempsey said that so far, there is no sign that the Islamic State militants are engaged in "active plotting against the homeland, so it's different than that which we see in Yemen."

"I can tell you with great clarity and certainty that if that threat existed inside of Syria that it would certainly be my strong recommendation that we would deal with it," said Dempsey. "I have every confidence that the president of the United States would deal with it."

He added that those regional partners could come together and squeeze the Islamic State group "from multiple directions in order to initially disrupt and eventually defeat them. It has to happen with them, much less with us."

Up to now, when asked about airstrikes inside Syria, Dempsey and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have said all options remain on the table. But so far there has been no broader authorization for such operations.

The Obama administration has authorized airstrikes within Iraq to protect U.S. personnel and facilities and to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces assist refugees driven from their homes by the Islamic State. Most of the recent strikes have been around the Mosul Dam, which Islamic militants had taken, but it is now back in the hands of the Iraqi and Kurdish troops.

Senior U.S. leaders, from the White House to the Pentagon, have said the key to success in Iraq is the formation of an inclusive government that will include disenfranchised Sunnis.

As the Islamic State militants moved across Iraq, some Sunnis - including some members of the Iraqi security forces - either threw down their weapons or joined the group.

The U.S. has been encouraged as new Iraqi leaders, including Shiite prime minister-designate Haider al-Abadi, begin to take steps to form a new government and reach out to Sunnis.

Officials have suggested that any additional military assistance from the U.S. to Iraq is contingent on those political and diplomatic steps by the government.

One possibility, said Dempsey, would be to have U.S. forces provide more expanded advice and assistance to the Iraqi force.

He said military assessment teams looked at about 50 Iraqi brigades and a number of the Kurdish units and have a good idea which ones have appropriate training and equipment and have not been infiltrated by militia.

So far, Dempsey said the U.S. has not sought or received permission to put advisers into Iraqi brigades or headquarters units and accompany them into combat.

To date, U.S. forces have conducted a total of 96 airstrikes across Iraq. Of those, 62 have been around the Mosul Dam.

The strikes have helps to break the insurgents' momentum, said Dempsey, and strip away some of the mythology that the Islamic State is impregnable or overwhelming.

Dempsey is on his way to Afghanistan to attend a change of command ceremony Tuesday. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford is stepping down as the top commander there; Army Gen. John Campbell will take over.

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jnjbeery August 25 2014 at 3:01 PM

First you have to get Obama out of the way as he is a Muslim and he won't let you do anything rash towards them.

Flag Reply +98 rate up
43 replies
Mike Jones August 25 2014 at 2:59 PM

So now Obama is going to get us involved in Syria? Tell me liberals, where is your outrage? Obama must be going there for oil right? Either you're against this like you were with Bush or you need to get a tattoo on your forehead that says hypocrite.

Flag Reply +79 rate up
32 replies
tennisleader August 25 2014 at 3:04 PM

come on man this stuff is getting in the way of my golf.. I already said I am sorry...

Flag Reply +55 rate up
9 replies
lhelix1965 August 25 2014 at 3:04 PM

Lets see if there is going to be any lib. outrage.This "president" is so far over his head. Are you happy libs. with the loser you are responsible for.

Flag Reply +51 rate up
6 replies
Joe August 25 2014 at 2:59 PM

This clown is a mega moron .

Flag Reply +50 rate up
7 replies
David August 25 2014 at 3:02 PM

Our wishy, washy military stance created this nightmare. Every American (except those traitors fighting for our enemies) is at risk.

Flag Reply +49 rate up
9 replies
mgt0331 August 25 2014 at 3:02 PM

It's all fluff. Obama is to weak to get involved in a volley ball game. Just like Clinton. Send a missile a day late.

Flag Reply +49 rate up
4 replies
steve August 25 2014 at 3:03 PM

We should have stuck with Bushes plan. We wouldn't be having this discussion.

Flag Reply +49 rate up
8 replies
tropicalriderceo August 25 2014 at 3:05 PM

not sure why he would think that setting up a strict islamic caliphate isn't a threat...I see it as a threat

Flag Reply +45 rate up
2 replies
robnettgd tropicalriderceo August 25 2014 at 4:38 PM

There are more than a few retired general officers who would disagree vehemently with the Joint Chiefs and have.....very publicly.

Problem with our Joint Chiefs today is they lack intestinal fortitude and are as feckless in their decision making as their boss.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
jwemrw robnettgd August 26 2014 at 12:33 AM

Maybe they should all be cowards like you - and stay home and let Mommie protect you.

Flag 0 rate up
HOn3Modeler tropicalriderceo August 25 2014 at 5:19 PM

They are Obamas HANDPICKED stooges......they fired all the Generals with the male equipment to go over there and kick some ISIS! All part of the Hope and Change Obama Administration!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
mgt0331 August 25 2014 at 3:04 PM

By the way. Have you seen Mr. Obamas picture lately. He looks stately. I may have to have a statue made of him and have it placed on my front lawn holding a lantern.

Flag Reply +44 rate up
19 replies
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