Hagel: U.S.-led strikes against ISIS may help Assad

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobane, seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province.

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Kobane, seen from the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province.

U.S. Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel warned on Thursday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may “benefit” from U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group, one of the regime’s foes.

“As we and the coalition go after ISIS to help the Iraqis secure their government, but also the Middle East, yes, Assad derives some benefit of that, of course,” Hagel said.

However, he noted that Washington was pursuing a long-term strategy, which opposes any role for Assad in the future of Syria.

The U.S. is leading an international anti-ISIS coalition, which has been raiding ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria since mid-September.

Besides the airstrikes, the Free Syrian Army – another opponent of Assad’s regime – has been battling the extremist group on the ground.

In Iraq, the Iraqi forces and armed tribesmen have also been battling the group, in an attempt to resist its advancement.

In addition, Kurdish Peshmerga troops started entering theSyrian town of Kobane on the border with Turkey, with the mission of helping fighters inside the Kurdish town try to break the siege by ISIS who launched an attack on Kobane six weeks ago.

Activists say there are currently some 1,000 Syrian Kurdish fighters and more than 3,000 jihadists in the Kobane area. Most civilians have fled.

In addition to seizing swathes of land in Iraq and Syria, and achieving measurable advancements in both countries, ISIS has been carrying out ruthless executions and attacks on civilians and soldiers who have tried to resist them.

Their latest display of brutality was through killing more than 220 Iraqis, from the tribe of Abu Nimr, which had opposed the group’s takeover of territory west of Baghdad.

Two mass graves were discovered on Thursday containing hundreds of bodies belonging to the Sunni Muslim tribe. that ISIS had seized this week. The captives, men aged between 18 and 55, had been shot at close range, witnesses said.

Hagel called the massacre a “brutal reality of what we’re dealing with.”

 
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