WASHINGTON - Under pressure from politicians at home and Russian maneuvering abroad, the Obama administration is moving this week to reassert leadership of the international fight against the Islamic State.
President Obama will meet French President Francois Hollande in Washington on Tuesday for the first in-person talks since Islamic State operatives attacked Paris on Nov. 13.
That will follow two other high-profile meetings on Monday with allies. Vice President Biden on Monday presided over a closed-door gathering of ambassadors representing the 65-nation coalition against the Islamic State. And Secretary of State John Kerry met with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two major backers of the Syrian opposition.
Russia's role came up in both Monday meetings, as participants discussed how to broaden the fight against the Islamic State without sacrificing the goal of eventually toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Analysts said the Obama administration is responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin's deeper military involvement in Syria.
Putin's goal "is very much to demonstrate that Russia is essential and influential and critical to resolving Syria," said Olga Oliker, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"Russia was actually pretty important to resolving Syria even before it started bombing, but now that they're militarily in the game, they've made it clear that it's impossible to think of any solution that doesn't include them," Oliker said.
Republicans have long complained that Obama hasn't been forceful enough in leading the fight against the Islamic State, criticism that's only grown since the Paris attacks. Even some prominent Democrats have chimed in. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday that she didn't think "the approach is sufficient to the job."