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State: Syria given advance notice of strikes

The Obama administration informed Syria's government it intended to hit Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positions before launching airstrikes on Monday, but did not provide advance warning on a military level, a State Department spokeswoman said Tuesday.

State spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the administration also warned Syria not to engage U.S. aircraft and that the U.S. did not request Syria's permission for the strike.

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Syria's government was informed that the U.S. strikes were coming by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha PowerSamantha PowerTrump hires put premium on TV prowess US abstains from UN resolution on Cuba embargo for first time Former Portuguese leader, refugee chief primed to be new UN head MORE, who spoke to Syria's permanent representative to the U.N. 

Psaki said the U.S. did not "coordinate our actions with the Syrian government" and Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryDepleted Dems look to Senate for 2020 nominee Voters want to drain the swamp? They can start with Louisiana GOP As Congress adjusts to Trump, Iran put under the pressure it deserves MORE "did not send a letter to the Syrian regime."

Earlier this month, Kerry raised eyebrows when, in an interview with CBS News, he equivocated when asked if the U.S. would coordinate the airstrikes with Assad.

“No, we're not going to coordinate with Syria,” Kerry said. “We will certainly want to deconflict to make certain that they're not about to do something that they might regret even more seriously. But we're not going to coordinate.”

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf later declined to explain what “deconflicting” meant, and the White House also refused to explain Kerry’s comment.

Still, the administration appears interested in preventing forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad from shooting at U.S. war planes conducting the airstrikes against ISIS. A senior administration official said last week that the U.S. would shoot back if Assad’s military shot at planes that entered Syrian airspace, and that the president could authorize the destruction of Syria’s air defense system.

Separately, the administration is beginning work on a program to train and arm the moderate Syrian opposition that is battling both the Assad regime and ISIS within Syria. Congress gave Obama authorization for that program as part of a short-term budget measure that passed last week, although U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said the program would take “many months” to get running.

"This is not going to happen overnight," Rice said. "It is not something that one should expect will yield rapid and immediate fruit. This is a serious training program, and we are serious about vetting those that we will be training and equipping."

This story was updated at 9:38 a.m.