‘Barack Obama will pledge on Wednesday night to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State insurgency operating in both Syria and Iraq in an address to the American people expected to herald a significant escalation of the US military role across the region.
Though the exact extent of the anticipated US intervention in Syria remained unclear in the hours leading up to the key speech, White House officials made clear the president planned to pursue a two-pronged strategy on both sides of the border that is likely to build on existing air strikes in Iraq against the group known as Isis or Isil.
“Tonight you will hear from the president how the United States will pursue a comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy Isil, including US military action and support for the forces combating Isil on the ground – both the opposition in Syria and a new, inclusive Iraqi government,” said a senior administration official in a statement issued to reporters on Wednesday morning.
“The president will discuss how we are building a coalition of allies and partners in the region and in the broader international community to support our efforts, and will talk about how we work with the Congress as a partner in these efforts.”
In contrast, Obama’s failed attempt to seek congressional backing for US air strikes against Syrian government forces last year, the president is seeking to shore up support on Capitol Hill with further briefings for senators planned on Wednesday but has so far refused to give Congress a veto over his latest strategy.
Ahead of Obama’s nationwide address – on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks – John Kerry, the US secretary of state, was holding urgent talks in Baghdad with the new Iraqi prime minister. Kerry was expected to press Haider al-Abadi, who was sworn in two days ago, to cede more power to the Sunni majority to bring them on side so Iraq can more effectively confront militants who control a swath of territory straddling Iraq and Syria.’