Senior senator questions White House secrecy on Syria

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 9, 2013 12:45pm EDT

Free Syrian Army fighters climb up a ladder to walk through a hole in a wall during an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighborhood July 8, 2013. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

Free Syrian Army fighters climb up a ladder to walk through a hole in a wall during an offensive against forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's Salaheddine neighborhood July 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Ammar Abdullah

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday said the White House was harming U.S. national security interests by being too secretive about its plans to arm Syrian rebels.

Responding to a Reuters story, Senator Bob Corker said President Barack Obama's administration has fully briefed only members of the Senate and House of Representatives Intelligence committees on details of its plans to aid to rebels fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Reuters reported on Monday that members of both intelligence panels have expressed reservations behind closed doors about the effort to arm the rebels and are holding up the delivery of the weapons. Sources said members worry that the weapons will not be enough to tip the balance in the conflict and that the arms might end up in the hands of Islamist militants.

"It is unacceptable to hide such a fundamental foreign policy matter from the vast majority of Congress and the American people," Corker said in a statement. "This approach is not appropriate and it just wastes time at the expense of our national interests."

Corker was the co-author of a bill calling upon the United States to arm the Syrian rebels that the foreign relations committee passed by a strong margin in May. That measure has yet to come to the full Senate for a vote, which some congressional aides have attributed to concern that it might not have enough votes for passage by the 100-member body.

Separately, two other senators called for the United States to increase military pressure on Assad's government, after a trip to neighboring Turkey and Jordan to study the situation in Syria.

Senators Carl Levin, a Democrat, and Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, called on the United States and other members of the "London 11" - countries that met in Qatar in June to discuss Syria - to convene a meeting to plan for additional measures to increase pressure on Assad's government.

Levin is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and, as such, an ex-officio member of the intelligence panel. King is a member of both the Armed Services and Intelligence committees.

"Advancing the goal of a political settlement will require actions to change the military dynamic in Syria and convince the Assad regime and its supporters that momentum is not on their side and that their best option is a political solution," the two senators said in a statement.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Bill Trott)

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Comments (8)
CSParty wrote:
It’s too late in the conflict to send small weapons now. The administration watched while 100,000 were killed and now wants to try and make a stand? Our foreign policy has never been in such disarray. Pathetic. Stay out of it now and isolate Assad financially and militarily. Sanction his regime to the same degree as Iran. We should not get involved in any other way at this oint unless we are willing to set up a noo fly zone and air coverage.

Jul 09, 2013 1:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Pumpkin2013 wrote:
Obama was a hawk in Libya but a mouse in Syria. In reality the U.S. even without NATO would be able to decimate Assad’s forces in a full scale confrontation. Assad has lost country of half of his country and can barely keep the rebels at bay. I am not advocating foreign intervention but surely more can be done in a non-military manner to ease out Assad and stop him from killing more of his people to preserve his 43 year family rule. Interestingly enough, most of the “non lethal aid” promised to the rebels is still sitting on the shelves, not delivered.

We don’t have to bomb Syria and we don’t have to give the rebels heavy weapons. Sanctions, combined with humanitarian aid to civilians and non lethal aid to the rebels, would be the right stance for the West to take. All it takes is for Obama to show some initiative and get the process going. When he was grovelling around Putin at the G8 summit, it was truly a pathetic sight.

Jul 09, 2013 1:47pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
xcanada2 wrote:
Moves to arm anti-Assad mercenaries look like simply more of the Israel-first infiltration of our government. Why would we want to arm the extremely anti-democratic Islamic zealots, as opposed to observing international law in our dealings with the (secular) Syrian government, and Assad? The answer is clear enough. And the affiliations of the US anti-Assad zealots is also clear enough. We Americans need to clear (i.e., purge) our government of the Israeli elements.

Quoting Ariel Sharon:
“I want to tell you something very clear, don’t worry about American pressure on Israel, we, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it.” Ariel Sharon to Shimon Peres, October 3rd, 2001, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio.

As for the 100,000 Syrian deaths, they are largely a result of these pro-Israel elements in the US who promote sectarian strife in the Middle East. Virtually every time you hear Americans promoting or wishing death to the Middle Eastern people, you can be sure where they are coming from.

And if President Obama and his ME-handlers have their way, there will be billions of American taxpayer dollars pored into their anti-American Middle Eastern projects. In addition, much more is risked, including world war with Russia and China.

The American government has become a menace to Americans, and to everybody else in the world.

Jul 09, 2013 2:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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