Obama seeks allies for action in Syria as first American Jihadi reported dead

WASHINGTON (TIP): President Obama has begun to seek and mobilize allies for possible US action in Syria and Northern Iraq even as reports emerged of an American jihadi dying in Syria fighting for extremists, coincidentally at the same time an Indian jihadi was also reported killed in the region.

The American, Douglas McCain, was an African-American malcontent from Minneapolis who had converted to Islam and signed up with extremist forces in Syria. He is one of scores of American who have done so over the past year, terrifying Washington that they may return to the US mainland to launch attacks at home. McCain was reportedly killed in an internecine militants’ fight near Aleppo, but the incident has galvanized the Obama administration into reminding Americans that the country cannot afford to take a hands off approach to the messy quagmire many are reluctant to return to.

To make it more palatable domestically, Washington is returning to the old formula of seeking allies. President Obama indicated as much on Tuesday when he told a meeting of the American Legion that the US was building a coalition to “take the fight to these barbaric terrorists,” and that the militants would be no match for a united international community. ”Rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy, and it won’t be quick,” Obama said, preparing Americans for a possible incremental involvement that is expected to begin with airstrikes.

Separately, administration officials are telling the media in background briefings that Washington is reaching out Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to provide support for potential US operations. While Australia and Britain are the usual Anglophone allies, the Gulf/Middle East countries all have stakes in the scrap; some like US allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar have connection to various extremist groups, needing Washington to manage and moderate their involvement.

US bete noires Iran and Syria, both of which are opposed to the extremist ISIS and are technically on the same side as Washington (as opposed to the Saudis who back the extremists) have been disdained, at least publicly. The diplomatic action began even as Theo Curtis, the American journalist freed by the radical group Nusra Front, returned to the US after Qatar intervened on his behalf. It has since been revealed that ISIS is holding as hostage a young American woman who was Syria as a humanitarian aid worker, demanding a $ 6.6 million ransom from her family.

US officials have asked that the 26-year old woman’s name not be used fearing for her safety but she is one of many Americans kidnapped in the region, including Steven Sotloff, the journalists ISIS had threatened to execute if the US does not call off its involvement in the region. Some American families have begun to take matters into their own hands given Washington’s policy of not negotiating directly with terrorists or considering their ransom demands in pursuit of its larger aims.

On Tuesday, the mother of Steven Sotloff, the journalist who was paraded with executed scribe James Foley, issued a tearful appeal on TV begging his captors to free her son. “Steven has no control over actions of the US government,” she said in an emotional message to Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS and the selfproclaimed caliph of the Islamic State. “He is an innocent journalist and I ask you to please release my child. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life.”

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