WASHINGTON (Tallahassee Democrat) -- Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida is calling for targeted air strikes in Syria against the militant Muslim group that beheaded an American journalist.
"I know the isolationist spirit of America, but we now have a group called ISIS that is threatening America," the Orlando Democrat told reporters Thursday. "And if we don't deal with them now, we're certainly going to have to deal with them in the future on our behalf and on behalf of our allies as well."
The Obama administration so far has confined its air strikes against the group — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — to the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. The sorties have helped Iraqi forces retake a key dam near Mosul that supplies water and electricity to Baghdad.
But Nelson said more has to be done to stop the Syrian-based terrorist group, especially in the wake of the "barbaric" beheading of journalist James Foley that ISIS filmed and distributed to media outlets earlier this week.
That means providing intelligence and possibly weapons to help the Free Syrian Army track down and kill members of ISIS, also known as ISIL and the Islamic State. And it means using U.S. aircraft to attack ISIS strongholds in Syria.
"We're not going to put boots on the ground. The American public is simply not going to support that," Nelson said. "So the capability of intelligence as well as an air campaign can do an awful lot... And I think we're going to have to take the fight to where the head of the snake is, and that's in Syria."
Nelson was speaking to reporters by phone from Kiev, where he is on a two-week, fact-finding trip to Ukraine, Lithuania and Turkey, meeting with local government leaders, NATO representatives and U.S. military officials on a host of issues inflaming global tensions. Among those he met with was the president of the Syrian Free Army.
A senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Nelson said he's not sure whether air strikes in Syria would require congressional authorization. If so, he said he would actively support such legislation.
President Barack Obama Wednesday said he was appalled by the "brutal murder" of Foley.
The president earlier this summer authorized a mission by U.S. special forces to rescue Foley and other hostages held by ISIS. But the mission failed because the hostages had been moved before commandos arrived.
"The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless," Obama said. "When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined Thursday to say whether the Pentagon would use air strikes against ISIS in Syria.
"We're looking at all options," he said.
Nelson is the latest lawmaker to call for increased action against ISIS.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said Tuesday that Foley's beheading is the latest indication the group "has declared war" on the U.S., and the White House should respond accordingly.
ISIS "is not a problem for only Iraqis or Syrians to solve," Rubio said. "If we do not do more to assist our Iraqi partners and those moderate Syrians who are fighting (them) and directly target (their) leadership and networks in Iraq and Syria, I fear that James Foley will not be the only American to die at their hands."
ISIS is believed to be holding another journalist, Steven Sotloff, whose parents live in the Miami area.