Following the Paris attacks on Friday, leaders in Europe and the U.S. are under growing pressure to take stronger military action against the so-called Islamic State, the extremist group that claimed responsibility for Friday's attack.
President Barack Obama came under intense criticism when an interview recorded Thursday for ABC News showed him asserting that ISIS had been "contained." "What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain and we have contained them," he said. The comments prompted a sharp response from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, among others, on Twitter.
President Obama said "ISIL continues to shrink" in an interview just hours before the horrible attack in Paris. He is just so bad! CHANGE.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 14, 2015
In recent months, politicians from both sides have been piling on the pressure. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, recently questioned at a hearing why the president had so far failed to establish a no-fly zone over Syria, while Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., attacked the administration's record on training Syrian rebel fighters.
The Paris attack could have profound consequences for U.S. foreign policy. "It is a game-changer in this sense: There were those who debated whether the Islamic State would stay focused local – or go global. I think that debate's over now," said Bruce Riedel, a former senior CIA analyst, in an interview with Reuters.
In Britain, airstrikes on Syria were ruled out in 2013 after a dramatic vote in the House of Commons that denied the Cameron government's wish to bomb dictator Bashar Assad's forces. Despite previous comments from Defense Secretary Michael Fallon that the logic for airstrikes is "inescapable," Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would not seek out a new vote on airstrikes unless there is a political consensus.
Former Conservative Defense Secretary Sir Gerald Howarth called for action on Saturday, describing the Paris attacks as a "wake-up call." However, Labour shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn told the Independent that even after the Paris attacks, Labour's opposition to military action against ISIS has strengthened, suggesting airstrikes will be off the table despite Conservative pressure.
Benn said the best course for the U.K. at this point will be to support a political solution in Syria. "That is the single most important thing we can do," he said, stating that the focus is to find a peaceful solution to the civil war.
In France, President François Hollande has received a call for military action from Assad. The Syrian ruler has offered his support to Hollande -- at a price. Assad said he will commit to helping France fight ISIS as long as it gives up trying to remove his regime.
But the French president is unlikely to get pulled into a rash response. According to Alex Vatanka, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, Hollande can instead take a bigger role in the Western response to ISIS, which the European Union would likely follow him in. "I suspect there is no chance for a French knee-jerk reaction here. Paris knows better than that," he said. Hollande will also need to examine the failures in the country's counter-terrorism measures that led to the attacks, Vatanka said.