Britain on Friday ruled out working with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a day after the United States signaled it might extend airstrikes against the militants beyond Iraq.
In an interview with the BBC, U.K. Foreign Minister Philip Hammond said the only way to tackle ISIS was by working with the Iraqi government which has troops on the ground.
He said dialogue with Assad would not advance the cause.
Pressure has increased on London for action against the group that beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley earlier this week.
Lord Richard Dannatt, the former head of the British army, said his country should join the United States and start bombing the militant group.
Dannatt, in an interview with BBC Radio 4, said he believed that Britain would eventually start launching air strikes against ISIS.
The former general also said London should open talks with Assad as part of the campaign against ISIS.
U.S. signals possible expansion
Dannatt spoke out as Washington signaled that it might consider expanding its present operations against ISIS in Iraq to Syria.
“Can they [ISIS] be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no,” Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey said at a joint news conference with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday.
“They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else,” Hagel said.
Hagel did not rule out the possibility of a military action on Syria, saying: “We’re looking at all options.”
But none of the officials indicated whether President Barack Obama, who has avoided military intervention in war-torn Syria, would approve of airstrikes.
Netherlands echoes U.S. stance
Dempsey’s views were echoed by U.S. ally the Netherlands.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said Friday that the fight against ISIS fighters could only be successful if the militants are confronted in Syria as well as Iraq.
"Everyone who is now calling for a stronger approach against ISIS in Iraq must realize that it will only be successful if we are ready to take on ISIS in Syria as well," Timmermans said.
Bigger than Al-Qaeda
Hagel said ISIS was no less of a threat than Al-Qaeda or any other terrorist organization which has directly threatened U.S. national security.
“They are beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology, a sophistication of ... military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we’ve seen.”
However, Dempsey said the fast-growing group “can be contained, but not perpetually.”
“This is an organization that has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision which will eventually have to be defeated,” he added.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said ISIS “must be destroyed,” in reaction to a video posted earlier this week by the militant group that shows the beheading of Foley.
Obama on Wednesday said that ISIS has “no place in the 21st century,” referring to the organization as a “cancer.”
Retired Marine Gen. John Allen called on Obama to destroy the militant group “quickly.”
In an op-ed published on Defense One website, the influential former U.S. general stressed that “the abomination of [ISIS] is a clear and present danger to the U.S.”
He declared that Obama was “right to order airstrikes on [ISIS] elements in northern Iraq.”