Diplomacy

Report: Senators “Eviscerate” Administration Officials over Syria Claims

National Journal on Wednesday conveyed details of what the outlet described as an “explosive” hearing held that day by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which saw senators from both parties “eviscerate” Obama administration officials over what Sen. Bob Corker described as a “delusional” understanding of the Syrian conflict. Corker leveled the characterization at Tom Countryman, State’s Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, after Countryman suggested that the Bashar al-Assad regime has sustained “actual losses” due to a deal in which the regime committed to giving up its chemical weapons arsenal.

“Are you sitting here, trying to indicate to the media and the people listening that you guys have actually developed a military strategy relative to Syria, and that you will talk about it in a classified setting?” Sen. Bob Corker, the top Republican on the committee, asked. “Because if you are, that would be major news.… [And it’s the most] major, misleading baloney I’ve heard since I’ve been in the U.S. Senate.”

Statements made this week by Ahmet Uzumcu, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, indicated that Syria will miss the deadline set by the deal for dismantling its arsenal.

An exchange between Corker and Anne Patterson – the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs – also grew heated, after Patterson insisted that the Obama administration had a secret plan to deal with the Syrian crisis but that she wouldn’t tell the committee about it during that session.

Senators broadly criticized the administration for having objectively propped up the Assad regime by inking the chemical weapons deal, a concern that had been made early by skeptics of the White House’s diplomacy but that had been brushed off.

The hearing came amid the release of a U.N. report that assessed that “massive and indiscriminate use of violence” on the part of the Assad regime was the “single most important factor” impeding Syrian civilians from receiving access to humanitarian relief workers.

“What the report shows is that the magnitude and frequency of violence committed by the Assad regime far outstrips that of the armed groups in Syria,” a U.S. official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“The Syrian government’s massive and indiscriminate use of violence is the single most important factor driving the humanitarian crisis,” the official said. “The report is very clear on this and in pointing to the government’s failure to implement the resolution’s provisions.”

Syrian troops and Hezbollah fighters continued to make advances near the Lebanese border on Thursday, the latest in a series of campaigns that have seen the regime consolidating control along the Syria-Lebanon border and restrict the flow of materials to opposition forces.

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