State: No partnership with Assad regime to defeat ISIS

The United States would not consider partnering with the Assad regime to address the threat posed by Islamist militants who have seized areas within Syria and Iraq, the State Department said Friday.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a radical militant group operating across the border, has been fighting both the Syrian and Iraqi governments in a bid to create a radical caliphate carved out of those two countries.

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The U.S. has joined with Iraqi and Kurdish forces to target ISIS fighters in Iraq, and vowed to pursue the group more vigorously following the taped execution of American photojournalist James Foley.

But those efforts will not include partnering with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Nearly 200,000 Syrians are estimated to have died in that country's civil war, and the administration has previously said that Assad should be removed from power over his role in that conflict.

"I really don't think that that's even an option here," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said about the possibility of partnering with Assad in an interview with MSNBC.

"Let's be clear, we and Bashar Al-Assad are not on the same page here in any way," she said. "Bashar Al-Assad's regime and his actions are the main driving factor behind why ISIL's been able to grow so strong. He allowed them to flourish in Syria. He allowed them to cross the border into Iraq and it's the situation he's created that has allowed this huge threat to really get much worse."

On Thursday, BuzzFeed published a story suggesting that some members of the Washington foreign policy establishment believed there could be advantages to working with the dictator. And Malcolm Rifkind, the chairman of the British Parliament's intelligence and security committee, suggested in an interview with the Financial Times that the West should consider such a partnership. 

“[Isis] need to be eliminated and we should not be squeamish about how we do it,” Rifkind said.

“Sometimes you have to develop relationships with people who are extremely nasty in order to get rid of people who are even nastier,” he added.

But Harf said she wanted to "reject the notion that we're on the same page in any way here."

"On the one hand, while he may sometimes take strikes against ISIS, on the other, everything he's done has helped to lead to their growth," Harf said. "So what we believe is we need to build partners like the Iraqis, like the Kurds, like the moderate opposition inside Syria who were fighting not just ISIS ... but also who are fighting the regime."