President Obama over the weekend authorized surveillance flights over Syria to gather intelligence on the locations and movements of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria forces. They began this week, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest Tuesday said he has yet to determine whether to extend airstrikes into Syria.
Earnest also dismissed the idea of any type of cooperation with Syrian President Bashar Assad on military operations inside that country, despite an AFP report Tuesday that the U.S. is already sharing intelligence on ISIS' movements inside Syria through Iraqi and Russian channels.
“As a matter of U.S. policy, we have not recognized Assad as the leader in Syria,” he said. “There are no plans to change that policy and there are no plans to coordinate with the Assad regime.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf quickly denied the report that the U.S. is sharing ISIS coordinates with Assad's government.
"To be clear: Claim in this story that US is sharing intel with the Assad regime is false," she tweeted with a link to the AFP story.
Syria’s foreign minister Monday said Damascus would welcome U.S.-led attacks on ISIS but only if they were coordinated with the Assad regime.
He said “we have not speculated” about whether to ask Congress for approval if Obama decides to act in Syria.
Pressed on why Obama last year chose to seek a vote in Congress for military action, which failed overwhelmingly, and will not commit to one for potential Syrian action now, he said the two are very separate issues.
“The goal of the mission from last year was aimed squarely at the Assad regime,” Earnest said. “The situation a year later is markedly different.”