WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama has approved surveillance flights over Syria amid debates including over whether to conduct airstrikes on Islamic State (IS) targets inside the war-torn country, local media reported Tuesday.
The Pentagon said the flights will use a combination of aircraft, including drones and possibly U2 spy planes, and focus on the border between Iraq and Syria, which has almost been erased now by the IS in its rapid advance.
The New York Times, quoting a senior administration official, said Obama authorized the mission over the weekend, and the Pentagon was drafting military options as a result with possible strikes on the IS along the border "as opposed to more deeply inside Syria."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday that any international effort to battle terrorism inside Syria must come in coordination with the Syrian government, stressing his country's readiness to cooperate on counterterrorism.
A mounting concern for the White House, however, is "how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad," the New York Times said, as Obama has repeatedly called for the Syrian leader's ouster.
Obama met on Monday with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and others over options, but had not yet decided whether to order military action in Syria, the White House said.
U.S. warplanes are continuing their limited air raids on the IS in northern Iraq launched on Aug. 8, but the administration officials have hardened their rhetoric following the beheading of American journalist James Foley by the group, as shown in a video released online last week.
Obama denounced the IS as a "cancer" that must be "extracted" from the Middle East, while his deputy national security adviser, Benjamin Rhodes, called Foley's killing a "terrorist attack" on the United States.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the group could not be defeated in Iraq alone.
"Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no," he said at a press conference.
The IS announced the establishment of an "Islamic Caliphate" in areas under its control in Syria and Iraq in late June.