Pentagon: ISIS is an ‘apocalyptic’ threat that can be ‘contained’ — but not indefinitely

The Guardian reports: Senior Pentagon officials described the Islamic State (Isis) militant group as an “apocalyptic” organisation that posed an “imminent threat” on Thursday, yet the highest ranking officer in the US military said that in the short term, it was sufficient for the United States to “contain” the group that has reshaped the map of Iraq and Syria.

Army general Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in a Pentagon briefing that while Isis would eventually have to be defeated, the US should concentrate on building allies in the region to oppose the group that murdered an American journalist, James Foley.

“It is possible to contain them,” Dempsey said, in a Pentagon press conference alongside the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel. “They can be contained, but not in perpetuity. This is an organisation that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated.”

Dempsey’s comments came a day after secretary of state John Kerry said Isis “must be destroyed” following the killing of Foley, the first American known to have died at the hands of Isis. President Obama had referred to the organisation as a “cancer”. Their remarks raised expectations that the administration was preparing for a wider war aimed at wiping out Isis, rather than stopping its advances in Iraq.

Internal administration deliberations over a response to Isis continue, and US officials predicted that there would be little departure from the strategy of limited airstrikes launched since 8 August. One said the military plan “may ultimately evolve”.

Hours after a senior White House foreign-policy official, Ben Rhodes, said the US would not be limited in its response by “geographic boundaries”, Dempsey assessed that cross-border action was necessary to defeat the group. At the same time, he tamped down speculation that US warplanes would strike Isis in Syria as well as Iraq.

Isis “will have to be addressed on both sides of what is at this point essentially a non-existent border”, Dempsey said, which would require “a variety of instruments, only one small part of which is air strikes. I’m not predicting those will occur in Syria, at least not by the United States of America.”[Continue reading…]

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