President Barack Obama talks on the phone with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the Oval Office, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Secretary Hagel makes a chilling statement, with Obama’s next move on ISIS a defining moment for his presidency. A news briefing scheduled for Friday afternoon.
President Barack Obama talks on the phone with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the Oval Office, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

“ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen,” Hagel said. “They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded… So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely, hard look at it…and get ready,” he said. [The Hill]

BACK WHEN Syria’s Bashar al Assad let jihadists out of his prisons, creating ISIS, no one would have believed they’d metastasize into what Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel clearly outlines as a clear and present danger to U.S. strategic interests. The criteria required for any American commander in chief to engage U.S. military forces to combat what directly threatens our nation’s interests.

When ISIS beheaded an American journalist, it meant to intimidate—and provoke—the United States. It should be careful what it wishes for. The gloves just came off. The Obama administration signaled Thursday that the United States has begun a new war against the so-called Islamic State, and that group’s operatives will not be safe from America’s wrath in Iraq, in Syria, or wherever they can be tracked down.

– Eli Lake [The Daily Beast]

The complexity of what’s going on brings it back to the treachery and butchery of Bashar al Assad, according to experts on the region. From Slate:

What is unclear is if previous investigations into Foley’s whereabouts were inaccurate, if ISIS militants somehow captured Foley from some of the regime’s most elite security, or if the Assad regime provided Foley to ISIS.

Until recently, James Foley was thought to be in hands of pro-Assad forces. If Assad is handing over Westerners to ISIS to be killed, it indicates… Assad feels cornered, looking for leverage,” BBC’s Kim Ghattas tweeted, adding that the assessment jibes with what her sources in Damascus have told her recently. Ghattas added that Assad providing Foley to ISIS “would confirm Assad tacitly working [with] ISIS and silence any suggestions Assad is the better alternative.”

The Syrian civil war has now morphed into a regional ISIS rampage threatening to topple everything in its wake, which all began when Bashar al Assad thought jihadists might help him stay in power.

In attempting to quell the opposition in 2011, Assad opened prison doors, letting out jihadists who later became the founders of ISIS, a radical group that has been terrorising the Syrian population, and in doing so, confirming the regime’s narrative that it is engaged in a fight against Islamist extremism.

[Al Jazeera]

These are Assad’s monsters, which some analysts now believe may force western powers to enlist Assad to save the day, claiming his intelligence on the terrorists are much better than anyone elses.

Back before ISIS was still “JV,” as President Obama recently called the group, he made a fateful decision not to take military action in Syria. After Prime Minister David Cameron suffered a humiliating defeat in parliament, Obama didn’t want to take the chance, with progressives working hard against him.

There were other voices, including David Petreaus and Secretary Clinton, as is outlined in Clinton’s book, as well as a recent interview in The Atlantic with Jeffrey Goldberg.

People are wrong to believe foreign policy comes down to a binary choice, all in on war or isolationism.

Certainly the country is right to be war weary. The inability to get over Iraq’s mistakes, however, has led to overlearn the lessons and retreat to a position that no military engagement is ever better than the alternative. It’s led to where we are today. ISIS out of control in a region, when early engagement militarily might not have been easy or the end of our involvement, but the opposite has led to a far worse outcome.

We’re back to beheadings and failed state warnings, in a region where the U.S. has vast national security interests.

However risky the suggestions were at the time military action in Syria was being considered, what’s happened as a result of not engaging militarily has brought the President back to where this began, with one uncomfortable caveat.

Britain is facing their own internal chaos as they work to ascertain the identity of the British leader who stood behind James Foley. So far the UK has adamantly refused to deal with Assad, something that some analysts are starting to suggest may be inevitable.

Russian state sponsored RT is trumpeting Britain’s divisions, in case you were confused about what’s going on.

President Obama’s realist penchant, to stay removed from conflicts that are not in U.S. interests, is leading him to a crossroad. Working with President Assad is not an option, because he is not only a war criminal, but the cause of ISIS coming into being and maybe even the provocateur in James Foley’s beheading.

As Secretary Hagel‘s statement reveals, President Obama’s latest moves are a result of what it would cost U.S. interests if he doesn’t move militarily.

Our lives are defined by a few critical moments.

For Barack Obama’s presidency, this is a moment that could redefine his presidency and set right what went wrong in Syria when ISIS was born.

U.S. warplanes are no longer simply helping create escape routes for the Yazidis or protecting American personnel in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The U.S. is now directly taking on the world’s most militant extremist group, bombing its positions at the Mosul dam and beyond. And it’s probably only the beginning.Robin Wright