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Syria, Iran slam US strategy in fighting militants

Syria, Iran slam US strategy in fighting militants

Syrian and Iranian officials criticized the Obama administration on Thursday for excluding them from an international coalition coming together in the battle against the Islamic State group, while a state-run Syrian daily warned that unauthorized U.S. airstrikes on Syria may trigger the “first sparks of fire” in the region.

The strongest reaction, however, came from Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s main international ally. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said such military action without a U.N. Security Council resolution “would be an act of aggression and flagrant violation of international law.”

Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group, meanwhile, welcomed Obama’s first-ever authorization of U.S. airstrikes in Syria, saying it stands “ready and willing” to partner with the international community to defeat the militants.

But the Syrian National Coalition said that airstrikes need to be coupled with a strategy for ultimately toppling Assad.

Kurdish politicians in Iraq similarly praised Obama’s announcement of wider airstrikes and assistance to Iraqi forces.

“We welcome this new strategy,” said Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurdish politician and one of Iraq’s newly-appointed deputy prime ministers. “We think it will work with the cooperation of the indigenous local forces like Iraqi Security Forces, the Kurdish peshmerga and other forces.”

“There is an urgent need for action. People cannot sit on the fence. This is a mortal threat to everybody,” he told The Associated Press.

The U.S. began launching limited airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq early last month at the request of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The American firepower provided a significant boost to Iraqi forces, including the Kurdish peshmerga fighters, battling to win back land lost to the militant group.

The Sunni extremists seized roughly a third of Iraq and Syria in their rampage this summer, declaring a self-styled caliphate in areas under their control where they apply their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

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