US Senators slam Obama’s Syria policy
US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Anne Patterson, has acknowledged that the Obama administration policies in Syria have been a failure.
During a hearing before the Senates’ Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Patterson said there have been failures but insisted that the US is accelerating its support for insurgents fighting against the government of Bashar al-Assad.
“I’m aware members of this committee our not satisfied with our progress to date. Neither are we,” Patterson said during the hearing, which became heated at times.
“We are trying to support the moderate opposition,” she said.
Patterson focused, instead, on efforts to contain the conflict by bolstering support to neighboring nations and seeking to reduce Jihadist elements that have flocked to Syria from around the world.
Senator Bob Corker accused the administration of having no policy in Syria and admonished Patterson for saying otherwise and for suggesting the Obama administration is considering military options.
“We haven’t had a strategy in Syria since day one,” Corker said.
Patterson insisted that the US does have a policy to bolster the security of surrounding countries such as Jordan, send humanitarian assistance to rebels, and support a diplomatic solution to the conflict while trying to “change the calculus on the battlefield.”
She also said that another top US goal in Syria was to deny a safe haven for extremist Takfiri militants in the country.
“Those are two issues that need to be addressed urgently,” Patterson said.
“I agree that many elements of our policy have not been successful,” Patterson added, “but I think we are trying to revise our policy now.”
Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, expressed deep frustration with Patterson after she declined to answer a question about military strategy in a public setting.
“I have a problem with a generic answer to a generic question that I can’t believe is classified,” Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said during a committee hearing.
Patterson said $80 million in non-lethal aid to the opposition’s Supreme Military Command — briefly suspended after extremists seized its warehouses — resumed in February, with shipments of medical kits, vehicles, and food rations continuing.
Members of the Foreign Relations panel in particular are claiming that President Barack Obama’s failure to do more in Syria.
140,000 people have been killed, millions have become refugees in Syria and thousands of foreign militant fighters have been trained as insurgents to fight and oust President Assad. The US and its European and regional allies have been giving military, financial and political assistance to the insurgents.
Foreign-sponsored Takfiri groups have been behind many of the deadly bomb attacks targeting both civilians and government institutions across the Arab country over the past three years.
A British defense study published last September showed that about 100,000 militants, fragmented into 1,000 groups, were fighting in Syria against its government and people.
Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies — especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey — are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.