In a move that brings the U.S. closer to military action in Syria, President Obama approved manned and unmanned air surveillance of ISIS in the country. According to AP sources, the flights have already begun. While Obama has avoided military action in Syria for the past three years, ISIS militants' increased threat to Americans in the region is pushing the president towards authorizing airstrikes.

The U.S. is already targeting ISIS militants in Iraq with airstrikes. Air surveillance in Syria would allow the Pentagon to gather intelligence and consider expanding that mission.

Defense officials told The New York Times last night that they do not plan to warn Syrian President Bashar al Assad about the surveillance flights or partner with him in any way. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said, "It is not the case that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Joining forces with Assad would essentially permanently alienate the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq, who are necessary to dislodging ISIL."

The AP notes that the U.S. "stepped up its air surveillance of [ISIS] inside Iraq earlier this year as Obama began considering the prospect of airstrikes there."

[Image via AP]