08/29/2014 03:09 pm ET Updated Aug 29, 2014

Republican Congressman Tom Cole: Obama Is 'Commendably Cautious' On Syria

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said in a Friday interview that President Barack Obama has been "commendably cautious" in dealing with the Islamic State.

"I think our main goal is ISIL. And I don't know that we have a, quote, 'responsibility' in Syria after that. And I think the president is being commendably cautious here about being involved in the middle of a Syrian civil war. It's at the minimum a three-sided conflict and probably a lot more than that," Cole, an ally of House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), told MSNBC's Chuck Todd.

Earlier in the interview, Cole also stressed that Obama should seek approval from Congress before taking any "extensive military action" against the Islamic State.

"I don't think the president should engage in extensive military action beyond what's allowed under the War Powers Act, without going to Congress," he said. "I think it's important politicly, and it's important for the world to understand that when we deploy force, we're doing it as a country and not in a partisan manner, that we genuinely are united. So I think the elements of a strategy are there."

Obama spoke at a White House press briefing on Thursday and said his administration was preparing a "range of options" for dealing with the Islamic State.

"Look, the president's made it clear, and I think appropriate, that we're talking about airstrikes at some point. We're talking about special operators. We're talking about, you know, aid and training for people on the ground. And we're talking about alliances in the region, which I think are going to be not easy to construct, but pretty doable since nobody on the ground, even our enemies, don't like ISIL," Cole told Todd.

The former al Qaeda-affiliated group is centered in Iraq and Syria, and has recruited fighters from Europe and the United States.

Calls for a U.S. response to the group have grown since the gruesome beheading of James Foley, an American journalist who was kidnapped in Syria two years ago.

The United Kingdom raised its own terror threat level to "severe" on Friday in light of developments in Iraq and Syria.


  • 1 He was part of a group of four Brits called 'The Beatles' based in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa
    A former hostage, who was held for a year in the Syrian town of Raqqa, has told the Guardian that the killer was the ringleader of a trio of UK-born extremists the captives nicknamed "The Beatles" because of their nationality.
  • 2 He was the ringleader, and in charge of guarding foreign hostages
    DON EMMERT via Getty Images
    The masked killer who murdered Foley is known as 'John' to the group.
  • 3 He is left-handed
    Only 10% of the world's population are left-handed. All of the information from the video will be analysed rigorously by intelligence services, including the way he holds his weapon, his height, body movement and intonation. MI5 have a database of Brits they believe have travelled to Syria, and they will be comparing what they know about each one, the Telegraph reported.
  • 4 He is probably from south London but could have family links to Afghanistan
    MACIEJ NOSKOWSKI via Getty Images
    Dr Claire Hardaker, a linguistics experts at Lancaster University, has told several media outlets that the man's vowels marked him out as likely from the south-east of England, but most likely from London. Elizabeth McClelland, a forensic voice and speech analyst, told the Telegraph the accent has "possible influences of Farsi, which could suggest a family link to Afghanistan".
  • 5 He was probably chosen for the job because his British accent would be more sinister for Western viewers of the video
    TAUSEEF MUSTAFA via Getty Images
    "This is significant because it signifies a turn towards threatening the west. They are saying we're going to come after you if you bomb us," Prof Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, at King's College London told the Guardian.
  • 6 He emailed the Foley family, furious about the US airstrikes, informing them he would kill their son
    Foley's family had been emailed by ISIS as early as last Wednesday and were informed that the terror group intended to execute the reporter in retaliation for US air strikes against Isis targets in northern Iraq. GlobalPost chief executive, Philip Balboni said that ISIS "made no demands", just informed the family the execution was going to take place. They tried to engage him in conversation, but to no avail, because the jihadist was fuelled by "seething anger".
  • 7 He had previously wanted a ransom to spare Foley's life, but the US government did not pay
    According to the New York Times who spoke to a family representative and a captive held alognside Foley, ISIS demanded the United States to provide a $100 million ransom ransom for Foley's life, but unlike several other European countries who did pay out, the US refused.
  • 8 He was the main negotiator in the release of 11 IS hostages earlier this year
    Almost a dozen hostages, some held for over six months, were handed to Turkish officials. They included two Spanish journalists, one pictured here, Javier Espinosa.
  • 9 The militants foiled an attempted rescue by US Special Ops
    US President Barack Obama sent troops to Syria this summer to rescue a number of Americans being held hostage, including Foley, senior administration officials said. Several dozen special operations troops who were dropped by aircraft into Syria did not find them and engaged in a firefight with IS militants before departing.
  • 10 The killer treated Foley differently and more harshly that other hostages
    French journalist Nicolas Henin spent seven months in captivity with Foley, including a week where they were handcuffed together, telling the BBC Foley was treated as "some kind of scapegoat" and was beaten more frequently. "Some countries like America but also like the UK do not negotiate and, well, they put their people at risk," he said.
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