One huge unanswered question is whether the president will order the attacks, or whether he will ultimately balk, as he did this time last year after preparing for limited strikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime. One administration official working on Syria policy said the purpose of the meetings Tuesday was “to convince one man, Barack Obama,” to follow through on the rhetoric and widen the aims of the war to include destroying ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. While Obama and his top officials have said they will need to address the threat of ISIS on both sides of the Iraq/Syria border, Obama has not said specifically what that means.
Two administration officials tell The Daily Beast that the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community are developing options to widen the war to be considered by Obama’s war cabinet this week. On Monday evening, The Wall Street Journal first reported—and The Daily Beast has confirmed—that the U.S. has flown surveillance aircraft into Syrian territory, part of the administration’s rush to come up with intelligence that could be used in any strikes.
Unlike in Iraq—where U.S. airstrikes are closely coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground—the Obama administration has not yet consulted with ISIS’s opponents in Syria about possible strikes.