“Mr. Secretary, thank you so much,” said CBS host Bob Schieffer. “Can I clear up one thing first. This week you went to some lengths to say you wouldn’t call this a war, but yet at the Pentagon and at the State Department even they were saying we are at war with ISIS. Are we at war?”

“Well, Bob, I think there’s frankly a kind of tortured debate going on about terminology,” Kerry responded. “What I’m focused on obviously is getting done what we need to get done to ISIL.

“But if people need to find a place to land: in terms of what we did in Iraq originally, this is not a war. This is not combat troops on the ground. It’s not hundreds of thousands of people. It’s not that kind of mobilization.

“But in terms of al Qaeda, which we have used the word war with, yeah, we’re at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. And in the same context, if you want to use it, yes, we’re at war with ISIL in that sense.”

***

“The administration seems to be a bit confused about what to call this action,” Martha Raddatz said to McDonough, before playing a clip of Kerry’s comments, followed by clips of White House press secretary Josh Earnest and Pentagon spokesman John Kirby insisting that we actually are at war…

“We believe that just as we have been at war with al-Qaeda since the day we got here, we are at war with ISIL,” McDonough said, explaining that the U.S. would be supporting “committed partners” on the ground with air power. He described those partners in Iraq as a “unified, capable, multi-ethnic Iraqi force.”

Asked if there was a limit to the number of troops the U.S. would commit to the effort, McDonough demurred, saying that he was “not in a position to tell you right now one way or the other.”

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“This will be a problem for the next president,” Mr. Obama said ruefully, “and probably the one after that.” But he alternated between resolve as he vowed to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad if Syrian forces shot at American planes, and prickliness as he mocked critics of his more reticent approach to the exercise of American power.

“Oh, it’s a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president with no foreign policy other than ‘don’t do stupid things,’ ” guests recalled him saying, sarcastically imitating his adversaries. “I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn’t make for good theater.”…

He added that ISIS had made a major strategic error by killing them because the anger it generated resulted in the American public’s quickly backing military action.

If he had been “an adviser to ISIS,” Mr. Obama added, he would not have killed the hostages but released them and pinned notes on their chests saying, “Stay out of here; this is none of your business.” Such a move, he speculated, might have undercut support for military intervention.

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Several Arab countries have offered to carry out airstrikes against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, senior State Department officials said on Sunday…

“There have been offers both to Centcom and to the Iraqis of Arab countries taking more aggressive kinetic action,” said one of the officials, who used the acronym for the United States Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East…

During Mr. Kerry’s stop in Jidda on Thursday, 10 Arab countries joined the United States in issuing a communiqué that endorsed efforts to confront and ultimately “destroy” ISIS, including military action to which nations would contribute “as appropriate.”…

The State Department officials, who asked not to be identified under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters, did not say which Arab nations had offered to carry out airstrikes.

***

Of greater concern is the flow of foreign fighters, including thousands of Saudis, Jordanians and Tunisians who have probably learned lethal skills in Syria and been drilled in extremist ideology. There have already been demonstrations in support of the Islamic State in Jordan; its flag flutters over some Sunni communities in Lebanon; and Saudi Arabia has conducted sweeps to detain dozens of suspected supporters.

For Saudi Arabia and other gulf nations, there is little incentive to join a military assault on the Islamic State, said Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist who runs the Al-Arab News Channel. “Nobody wants to be in the middle of a bloody sectarian war,” he said. “And if we go into Syria, do we side with the rebels” or Syrian President Bashar al-Assad?

***

“Apparently nobody’s been listening to what Senator McCain and I have been saying for the past three years!” a revved-up Graham answered. “We said train the Free Syrian Army so they can take this fight on. Instead of training the Free Syrian Army, the president overruled his entire national security team and abandoned the Free Syrian Army.”

“I want a regional coalition,” Graham continued. “I want the Free Syrian Army in the fight. I want Arab countries in the fight. But here’s what I’m tired of hearing from this administration and my friends on the other side and within the party, that this is somehow easy and really not our fight. Name one Arab army you could put together anytime soon to deal with a terrorist army of over 30,000 without a substantial American commitment…I am tired of hearing from this administration how easy this is going to be.”

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[T]he success of President Obama’s strategy in Syria clearly depends on the ability of the Syrian Opposition Coalition and the Free Syrian Army to fight ISIS. The good news is the FSA has established a command center outside the village of Marea in the strategically important province of Aleppo to direct and manage the battle against ISIS in northern Syria. And in August the Syrian Revolutionary Command Council, an alliance between FSA and other rebel factions, was formed to increase coordination and unity.

How can these rebel groups help the U.S. assault on ISIS? Even with the world’s most advanced intelligence reconnaissance and surveillance platforms, the U.S. military still needs “eyes on the ground” to round out the intelligence picture of ISIS’s capabilities, locations and vulnerabilities…

The blood feud against ISIS in Syria remains and is a powerful motivator. Sustained U.S. airstrikes in Iraq can serve as a catalyst for expanding opposition to ISIS in Syria. If airstrikes are eventually carried out in Syria, their effectiveness against a nimble, fast moving, and increasingly sophisticated ISIS force will need a local support network that can capitalize on the initial shock and disorder that will follow.

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Moderate Syrian rebels and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) reportedly struck a cease-fire deal on Friday, according to a group that has monitored Syria’s civil war.

The groups agreed to a non-aggression pact in which they promised not to attack each other.

The development could influence members of Congress to vote “no” on an authorization to train and equip moderate rebel groups as early as next week. The White House has requested the authorization, but some lawmakers have already been skeptical the opposition groups can be trusted.

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Nearly 70 percent of Americans say they lack confidence that the U.S. will achieve its goals in fighting the terrorist group ISIS, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Annenberg poll. The findings come in the wake of President Barack Obama’s national address announcing new measures to combat the Sunni militants…

The poll – conducted before the latest execution emerged – showed that a combined 68 percent of Americans say they have “very little” or “just some” confidence that Obama’s goals of degrading and eliminating the threat posed by ISIS will be achieved. Just 28 percent said they had “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of confidence. Still, 62 percent of voters say they support Obama’s decision to take action against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, while 22 percent oppose it.

“The bottom line: The president has made his case to the American public, and like other presidents who faced war and peace issues, support usually follows,” said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who helped conduct the survey. “The difference in this military encounter is that, right out of the box, Americans are skeptical if this will work.”

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“Do you really think you can destroy ISIL without troops on the ground?”