ISIS Emerges as Top Terrorist Threat to U.S.

A bloody year in Syria and Iraq could make new friends of old enemies.
10:00 | 08/22/14

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Transcript for ISIS Emerges as Top Terrorist Threat to U.S.
-- -- DUS has now launched more than ninety airstrikes on ice -- targets in Iraq. First in the north as part of a humanitarian effort to free ethnic minorities and more to help Iraqi forces as they took back that pivotal Mosul dam. It's the new front in the war for Iraq and there is no end in sight. Right now the international hot -- Iraq and Syria. -- -- in Washington. From President Obama to the secretary of defense -- -- -- top US government officials agree. The jihadist group I -- this is -- most dangerous threat America is faced. Since Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda. With the latest here's the BBC's Jonathan Beale. But -- two weeks America's been using its military power. -- -- the advance of the Islamic state finances in Northern Iraq. A bombing campaign that -- -- recently -- stepped up. Following the brutal beheading. Of the US -- this James -- It's his death and the shall -- -- it's refocusing mine's a brief -- -- of the Atlantic. Intelligence agencies are still trying to establish the identity of his XEQ should -- he's believed to be British. But he's just one of many foreign -- as he joined the ranks of an extreme Bob -- organization. Which American -- says poses the greatest threat to the west. They're beyond just a terrorist group they marry ideology. -- sophistication of of strategic and tactical military prowess. They -- tremendously well funded. -- this is beyond anything that would that we -- so we must for. Prepare for before everything and there are -- way you do that is you -- cold steely hard look at it. And and and get ready. The problem though he's not just at that point is a well trained well armed and well funded. It's one of geography the tentacles of the Islamic states recognizing new -- What President Obama -- that can -- has already spread from its source in Syria to large sways of Iraq so the question is how can -- threat. Be defeated -- things contained. This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end of days. Strategic vision. And which will eventually have to be defeated to your question can -- be defeated without -- dressing. That part of their organization which resides in -- answers no. What that L article there in low and the dilemma the witness stand the Syrian regime of president Assad's and the common enemy in the Islamic states. But Britain and America also oppose the Syrian dictator. He too has committed atrocities. One year -- his forces gassed his and people. I think the -- conclusion you have to probably reach is that -- -- statement of my enemy's enemy is my friend might have some truth -- it. And -- it just might be on under the -- all over the counter. Some conversation may have to -- -- with the Assad regime in order to bring pressure real pressure on the these Islamic state a fundamentalist fighters. There are no easy offenses the west -- -- -- the debacle and the deeply C. And further complicated by Britain and America's reluctance. To put that in boots on programs. -- from the UB BC news. One year ago today rockets carrying the deadly nerve agents -- were fired into a suburb. And the Syrian capital Damascus the UN described it as the worst use of weapons of mass destruction in the 21 century. The US and Britain after much internal debate opted against airstrikes but today just twelve months later. Both countries are deeply engaged in Iraq and Syria where the death tolls since the conflict began in 2011 has surpassed 109. 1000. Could be next here's BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy -- And a warning some of the images in his report are graphic. Online -- in three horrific is in Syria no single incidence has been worse than the chemical attack. -- killed and injured so many people in the rebel held suburbs of Damascus a year ago. The west and the rebels -- the celebration. It's denied to Charles. The Americans had threatened trouble unspecified. If mass casualties were inflicted by chemical weapons. When all these people were killed. US military action against the -- regime looks. In Damascus at that time supporters of president ascent -- volunteering for malicious. Amid real anxiety. Above what the Americans might do. The war seemed to be at a turning the in Britain Holloman -- -- cold and voted against joining the Americans and bombing Syria. He was a big factor in America's decision to cancel the air strikes at the last minute. I think the policy that the American government. Followed on Syria even before the chemical attacks. Was. -- tentative and he's indecisive. And I think -- send a signal to. People in both the moderate rebels in Syria but particularly to the extreme paralysis here that we were not prepared to re engage. In this region. The president assets supporters volunteering as human shields at potential targets in Damascus. The deal looked good. Syria would give up its chemical arsenal to lift the threat of an American attack. Yes had received -- it snapped it believed the Americans have blinked first. History is full of what -- a major reason why there's been no direct -- military intervention. In the Syrian war has been fear of the consequences. Not just getting sucked into a political. Admitted -- -- spent. Actively making matters worse not -- -- But -- if the Americans had bombed Assad's men. It would not have ended the war but it might have changed the balance of power. It could've been the catalyst for more American support. The Syrian insurgents who were also opposed to the jihadist group that was then. Called a crisis. That's certainly what Syrian fighters who were hoping for mall west in support believe. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- If American strikes what happens the regime wouldn't have been strengthened Islamic state wouldn't have been strengthened. Because -- airstrikes did not happen but the efficacy is now having to fight -- regime -- and Islamic -- The conflict in Syria has evolved into a series of overlapping civil wars. You can see it and -- left while I was sitting at the summit. Corporate health the Syrian government fights in -- and sometimes the insurgents also fight each other. -- is now re branded as Islamic state came into Syria from Iraq -- an al-Qaeda offshoot. It has -- of the anti regime forces. More than its -- the Syrian regime itself. The -- devices in Syria gave -- -- launch. To storm back into Iraq. It's captured large amounts of American weaponry from the Iraqi. Iraqi Security Forces was strengthening their positions on the edge of Baghdad in July. Against the Islamic state of violence. I asked has exploited the anger of Arab Sunnis and furious to -- Iraqi she is monopolized. Another is a new government in Baghdad Iraq's best hope is that it will of the -- enough to turn them away from the highest. Backs won't -- easily. Who was GM might -- -- -- I would we will not fight -- raises or any other terrorism. As long as we haven't received our rights. And we will not fight terrorism but what is known and sizes as long as the government. It has not screwed up to terrorist Shia militias. Which butchers and -- The west is deeply involved in this crisis even though it would prefer to stay out. Britain's deliveries of humanitarian aid could turn into a deep -- -- tree road. Perhaps directed at the several thousand British and other European men who fight -- I -- In Damascus this morning families displaced by three years of fighting were going home off to a local truce in this suburb. Between the regime and reckless. That's -- Syrian regime comes its capital. It's hoping for -- at least tacit alliance with the US Britain and France against Islamic state. That would be a remarkable turnaround for president -- who may already be the leader who's done best the last year. Jeremy -- BBC news. You can keep up with all the latest from the region in real time by downloading ABC news -- And -- this story for exclusive updates on the ago. You've been watching international hot spot I'm Mary Bruce in Washington.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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