October 31, 2013

In Case You Missed It: Corker: Lack of U.S. Support for Moderate Opposition in Syria “An Embarrassment,” Allies Questioning U.S. “Reliability”

WASHINGTON - In response to U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford’s testimony defending the Obama administration’s slow delivery of long-promised aid to moderate forces in Syria, U.S. Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn., ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee, called the lack of U.S. support for the opposition an “embarrassment,” arguing that with Russia’s hands “now on the steering wheel” in Syria, the U.S. lacks a strategy for resolving the conflict or for the region as whole, which is causing America’s allies to question U.S. “reliability.”

“I think our help to the opposition has been an embarrassment, and I find it appalling you would sit here and act as if we are doing the things we said we would do three months ago, six months ago, nine months ago,” Corker said to Ambassador Ford during a Senate hearing on Syria today. “What we’ve done is turned the future of Syria over to Russia. They have their hands on the steering wheel. I don’t know how you feel good about the humanitarian crisis taking place. I don’t know how you feel good about our partners, their feelings about our reliability. I appreciate your concern for the people of Syria. I cannot imagine you sit here with a straight face and feel good about what we’ve done. I hope at some point this administration will sit down and develop a strategy, not only for Syria, but for the region.”

On August 10, Corker met with Syrian opposition commander Brigadier General Salim Idris in Turkey. At that meeting, Idris anticipated the delivery of trucks promised by the United States. Those trucks, according to Ambassador Ford in today’s hearing, just arrived today, more than two months later.

Other witnesses at today’s hearing noted the problems in Syria can’t be solved by arms control alone and explained the consequences of the lack of a U.S. strategy, which they say threatens to drag out the conflict.

“[T]he problem of Syria at its root is not an arms control problem. Chemicals are the tip of a very deep and very deadly iceberg, one that will surely, if left unattended, kill all attempts to create a political path, a negotiated settlement to this problem. The iceberg itself is a deliberate, systematic policy and practice of the Assad regime to target civilians with artillery, rockets, aircraft, and missiles for murder, mayhem, terror, and flight,” said Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, senior fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

“I just talked to the leaders of the nations in the area, and you’ll see that they’re confused and dismayed and their willingness to help us on Syria, to follow our lead on Syria will depend in good part about our getting our act together in terms of dealing with Iran, Iraq, Arab-Israeli negotiations. These things all fit together in the real world. As far as Syria itself is concerned, we do have no strategy. I think all of you touched on that point very well. We started out wanting to get rid of Assad. We didn’t take any efforts either militarily or diplomatically that could get rid of him. We drew red lines and then didn’t do anything about them, walked away from them. And now we’re in a position where it seems we’re just going to let this war drag on with terrible consequences,” said Dr. Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.

For archived footage of the hearing and complete witness testimony visit: 1.usa.gov/1cskB9c.