White House: "We Absolutely Agree" Paris Attacks Were an Act of War

A top Obama Administration official said the Paris attacks were an 'act of war.'

ByABC News
November 15, 2015, 8:58 AM

— -- A top White House official said there is agreement in the Obama Administration with French President Francois Hollande that the Friday attacks on Paris amount to an "act of war."

"We absolutely agree that this was an act of war by ISIL," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told George Stephanopoulos in an interview on ABC’s "This Week" Sunday. "Any time you have type of indiscriminate targeting of innocent civilians we see that as an act of war by a terrorist group."

Rhodes, speaking from Antalya, Turkey, where President Obama is attending the G-20 Summit, also said U.S. intelligence shows that the attack was "in all likelihood" carried out by ISIS.

"Clearly all the signs point to this being the responsibility of ISIL," Rhodes said, using a name American officials often substitute for ISIS. "Certainly our information supports the strong likelihood that ISIL was involved in this."

French President François Hollande on Saturday blamed ISIS for the attacks, which he called "an act of war."

"And when faced with war, the country must take appropriate decisions," Hollande said. "An act committed by a terrorist army, DAESH [ISIS], against what we are, a free country that speaks together with the planet."

Rhodes also sought to clarify remarks made by President Obama in an interview with Stephanopoulos Thursday, where he said "we have contained" ISIS. Various GOP presidential candidates pounced on the comments, citing the Russian jet brought down in Egypt, suicide bombings in Lebanon and the brutal wave of attacks in Paris as evidence that the ISIS threat is only expanding.

"The President was responding very specifically to the geographic expansion of ISIL in Iraq and Syria," Rhodes said. "The fact is, we have been able to stop that geographic advance and take back significant amounts of territory in both northern Iraq and northern Syria. At the same time, that does not diminish the fact that there is a threat posed by ISIL not just in those countries, but in their aspirations to project power overseas."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday the Paris attacks marked the "failure" of the U.S.-led coalition campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.

"The chief failure here is that we cannot allow ISIS to have this unmolested sanctuary in Syria and Iraq from which to plan and direct attacks against us," he said in an interview on "This Week."

The top Democrat on the intelligence panel, who has been briefed several times on the attacks since Friday, said the Paris plot was "likely directed and equipped out of Syria."

ABC's Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.