Obama says U.S. must boost air power against IS, denies $400M was Iran ‘ransom’ payment

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 (UPI) — President Barack Obama said Thursday that to meet the growing threat of terrorism worldwide, the United States must enlarge its focus on the Islamic State militant group — which includes fighting on multiple fronts and escalating attacks from the skies.

The president made the remarks during a news conference at the Pentagon Thursday afternoon following a two-hour meeting with national security advisers.

Obama said all available intelligence suggests that while the militant group can be defeated, it’s likely that both affiliated and unaffiliated terror networks which share common goals are likely persist for years — overseas and in the United States.

“We have to do a better job of disrupting networks, and those networks are more active in Europe than they are here,” the president said. “But we don’t know what we don’t know, and so it’s conceivable that there are some networks here that could be activated.”

National Security Council/Twitter

During the briefing, Obama said the U.S. military and coalition forces will escalate airstrikes as part of the overall plan to destroy the Islamic State, which experts say presently operates in nearly two dozen countries.

While U.S.-led forces have been fighting militants in Syria and Iraq for years, Obama said it’s necessary to focus elsewhere, as well — in places like Libya, where Washington has been conducting airstrike campaigns for almost nine months.

Obama echoed Pentagon leaders earlier this week in supporting the added Libyan strikes.

“We’re going to keep going after ISIL aggressively across every front of this campaign,” the president said, using the acronym for the Islamic State’s branch in Libya.

The president also defended continuing talks with Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, with regard to cooperation between Washington and Moscow to fight terrorist targets in Syria — but he made clear that such cooperation with a semi-adversary must be done carefully.

“I’m not confident that we can trust the Russians and Vladimir Putin,” he said. “You’ve got to go in there with some skepticism.”

Video courtesy The White House

During Thursday’s briefing, Obama also addressed speculation about a $400 million payment the U.S. government made to Iran in January.

The payment, Obama said, was the result of a decades-old dispute between the two nations that was litigated and settled in an international court.

Critics, though, including Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, have noted that the payment was made the same day four American citizens detained by Iranian forces were released — an observation raised this week by a report in the Wall Street Journal.

“This lawless, reckless Administration has embarrassed our country as no other, while fueling and funding Islamic terror,” Trump said in a Facebook post Thursday. “Nothing less than a full investigation is required.”

Donald Trump/Twitter

“We do not pay ransom for hostages,” the president said, sternly denying the accusation. “The notion that we would somehow start now, in this high-profile way … and say to them that we don’t pay ransom defies logic.”

Obama added that the $400 million payment had already been disclosed to the public before it was made.

“Some of you may recall, we announced these payments in January. Many months ago,” Obama said. “It was no secret.”



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