NEW DELHI: On Monday at the United Nations, Syria reiterated that it supports the global struggle against the Islamic State whilst warning that strikes could violate its sovereignty.

“The Syrian Arab Republic reiterates that it stands with any international effort aimed at fighting and combating terrorism, and stresses that this must be done in full respect of the lives of innocent civilians and within the frame of full respect of national sovereignty, and in conformity with international conventions,” Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said at the United Nations General Assembly.

Although stopping short of condemning the United States, which has, along with the support of 40 other countries begun conducting air strikes against Islamic State strongholds in Syria, the Minister said that the duality of military action and support for the militants may lead to a scenario wherein the “international community will not exit in decades”.

The US began its attack on Syria a week ago on Tuesday, previously being involved in the country in funding, advising and training rebel militias opposed to President Bashar al Assad. In fact, the advance of anti-government forces in Syria -- which include the Islamic State, who are the target of these strikes -- was made possible in turn, by the US and allies assistance to Sunni rebels, who share with the US the objective to topple Alawite leader Assad. The US greenlighted Turkish and Saudi aid to anti-Assad rebels, supplied these groups with material and financial assistance, and used the CIA to train rebels at a secret base in Jordan.

This not to suggest that the rebels in Syria present a homogenous group, as there is considerable infighting, with the IS militants facing setbacks at the hands of the Islamic Front and the Free Syrian Army, for instance. However, affiliations change rapidly, and the IS group -- when it was known as Al Qaeda in Iraq -- had expressed solidarity with the rebels in Syria, following which the US immediately increased aid to anti-Assad forces. The aid began as non-lethal aid, but following a June 2013 White House statement that said there was reason to believe that Assad had been using chemical weapons against rebels, the US decided to extend lethal aid to anti-Assad militias. The total aid given by the US to rebels in Syria, according to USAID figures, amounts to over $1 billion.

Earlier this month, the United States senate voted 78-22 in favour of a resolution that calls for continuing the provision to arm and train Syrian rebels.

This approval, and the strikes that have followed, come after Obama’s speech on the eve of September 11, that outlined a four step strategy to combat IS, focusing on air strikes, support to on-the-ground partner forces, counter terrorism operations and humanitarian aid. In that speech, Obama clearly stated that in addition to Iraq, where the US has the support of the government to conduct air strikes against IS militants, the strategy would also apply to Syria. “I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq,” Obama had said.

The Syrian government immediately responded with a warning that any foreign intervention in the country will amount to a an act of aggression unless it is approved by Damascus. Ali Haidar, minister of national reconciliation affairs, speaking to reporters in the Syrian capital, said, “Any action of any type without the approval of Syrian government is an aggression against Syria. There must be cooperation with Syria and coordination with Syria and there must be a Syrian approval of any action whether it is military or not."

It is also worth noting that the US has threatened the Assad regime with military action on many occasions in the past, but stopped short of following through. In stating that the goal of the strikes is to target IS militants, the Obama administration has finally found the legal justification for a long-deliberated action. Further, even though the US maintains that there have been no civilian casualties because of its actions, the truth is perhaps far murkier.