The House Intelligence Committee came out of a huddle on President Obama’s plans to arm rebels in Syria with tentative yet halting approval.
But it came as the White House is again displaying a back-burner approach as it favors Obama’s dream of a two-state solution over the failing state of Syria.
“The House Intelligence Committee has very strong concerns about the strength of the administration’s plans in Syria and its chances for success,” Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Monday evening.
“After much discussion and review, we got a consensus that we could move forward with what the administration’s plans and intentions are in Syria consistent with committee reservations,” he said.
Congress has had mixed reactions since Obama finally decided his “red line” had been crossed and Bashar Assad had used chemical weapons on his people. Some members have tried to block the aid to the Syrian opposition while others have decried the administration’s sudden interest in the issue as too little, too late with more than 100,000 Syrians dead.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention yesterday that the plan was “problematic on multiple levels.”
“The Assad regime is no friend to freedom or the United States. But this does not mean the enemy of our enemy is our friend. There are currently 17 different rebel groups in Syria, including the largest group, al-Nusra,” Paul said. “Al-Nusra fighters are radical anti-American jihadists that are affiliated with al-Qaeda. Politicians in Washington, who are eager to send these weapons, promise they will not fall into the hands of our enemies.”
“Do you believe that? Does anyone believe that? We have trouble telling friend from foe in Afghanistan. Syria is a thousand-fold more chaotic.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked yesterday why Secretary of State John Kerry went to Jordan to ostensibly tackle the Syrian problem, but apparently spent his time trying to restart Middle East peace talks.
“Yet there is not this same sense or urgency involved with what to do about Syria,” a reporter asked at the daily briefing. “Are we missing something?”
“Well, I would say, one, obviously, many members of the President’s national security team are focused on many challenges, including Syria. Secretary Kerry has been. Secretary Hagel is and has been. Susan Rice, the national security adviser, and others. And that will continue to be the case, including, of course, the engagement of the president,” Carney replied.
“But what we can’t do is focus on one foreign policy challenge to the exclusion of all else. And while a great deal of attention and resources have been devoted to the Syria challenge and will continue to be, we need to continue to address other challenges,” he added.
Kerry will host the leaders of several United Nations and other international humanitarian organizations today at the State Department to discuss Syria.
Carney said he couldn’t “catalogue all the specific forms of assistance that we’re providing to the Syrian opposition.”
“But we are providing stepped-up assistance to them, to the Syrian opposition, to the Syrian military council. And we’ll continue to do that, and we’ll work with Congress as we do,” he added.