News / USA

    US Lawmakers Question Russian Commitment in Syria

    Lawmakers Question Russian Commitment in Syriai
    Pamela Dockins
    February 24, 2016 2:41 AM
    A U.S.- and Russian-led plan for a partial cease-fire in Syria to begin Saturday has drawn skepticism from U.S. lawmakers who question whether Russia will live up to its commitments. Lawmakers questioned Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday about whether the U.S. was willing to pressure Russia if it failed to comply. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Lawmakers Question Russian Commitment in Syria
    Pamela Dockins

    U.S. lawmakers have expressed skepticism about Russia’s commitment to a new cease-fire plan for Syria and plans for a political transition in the country.

    In a Tuesday hearing on the State Department’s proposed budget, lawmakers sought assurances from Secretary of State John Kerry that Russia would curb its bombing campaign over Syria, which has focused largely on the Syrian regime’s opponents, not terrorists.

    “[Russian leader Vladimir] Putin is attempting to change the battlefield dynamics to bolster the Assad regime and weaken the opposition in terms of anything related to peace,” Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming said during the Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

    He commented a day after the U.S. and Russia, the co-chairs of a cease-fire task force, announced plans to launch a partial cessation of hostilities in Syria on Saturday.

    Kerry told lawmakers he was uncertain whether the cease-fire would work or lead to a negotiated peace settlement. But he said the plan was the best way to try to end the five-year conflict that has left as many as 470,000 dead, according to some estimates. It calls for a halt to fighting, except for continued attacks on Islamic State and al-Nusra Front fighters .

    “If humanitarian assistance flows, if the guns do silence with the exception of the effort against Daesh and al-Nusra on Saturday, if they do, and lives are saved, then that is to the benefit," Kerry said. But he added, "It doesn’t mean that it’s automatically going to have a positive outcome in the political process."

    Truckloads of aid

    The secretary noted that in the last two weeks, 114 truckloads of humanitarian aid had been dispatched into areas of Syria that have been cut off by the fighting between Syrian government troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and rebel forces trying to overthrow him.

    "At least 80,000 people who haven’t had supplies in years now have supplies for the next month at least, and we have resulted in [getting] food and medicine to places that have been under siege for months," Kerry said.

    Some Senate lawmakers voiced skepticism that Russia would honor the truce, with Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer of California questioning whether the Washington-Moscow pact might turn out to be a "rope-a-dope deal" with frequent cease-fire violations.

    Barrasso said Russia had been “consistent” in “failing to keep its word.” He asked Kerry what consequences the U.S. was prepared to impose upon Russia if it violated the cease-fire agreement.

    “There is significant discussion taking place now about Plan B in the event we don’t succeed at the table,” said Kerry.

    Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, disagreed, saying, “I think the secretary is negotiating a situation where there is no Plan B. Russia knows there will be no Plan B” if it does not abide by terms of the agreement.

    Support for Assad

    There have been ongoing concerns about Russia’s support of Assad, even as Moscow continues to participate in the International Syria Support Group, which has agreed on a plan for a political transition in Syria.

    Kerry said it would be a “mistake” to calculate that President Barack Obama would decide there were no further options if Russia backed away from commitments to a cease-fire.

    Analysts say the U.S. may have little leverage to use against Russia for its actions in Syria, unless it considers military options.

    “As things now stand, Russia is succeeding at driving back the Syrian opposition,” said Daniel Serwer, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

    “It has gained advantage on the battlefield. That’s not a particularly ripe situation for a political settlement,” added Serwer, who is also an analyst at the Middle East Institute.

    Despite congressional doubt about Russia’s commitment to a cease-fire, the U.S. and other world powers are moving ahead with the cease-fire effort, which needs to be endorsed by both the Syrian government and the opposition by Friday.

    “We urge the maximum number of armed opposition factions to express their support and readiness to participate in the cessation,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.

    Tuesday’s testimony marked the first in a series of appearance on Capitol Hill this week for Kerry, as lawmakers consider the State Department’s proposed budget of $50.1 billion for fiscal 2017.

    Email controversy

    Senate Foreign Relations Committee members pressed Kerry on a number of issues, including the normalization of ties with Cuba and the implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement.

    Political overtones factored into the hearing.

    Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, questioned Kerry about the ongoing State Department email probe involving his predecessor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Johnson said a Senate committee’s request for logs related to the transfer of classified information had gone unanswered for five months.

    Kerry responded that he did not know the specific reason for the delay. He added that there were “more than 50 simultaneous investigations” underway regarding the emails and an “unprecedented” number of Freedom of Information requests.

    Clinton is a Democratic contender in the U.S. presidential race.

    VOA's Ken Bredemeier contributed to this report.


    You May Like

    Syrian Torture Victim Recounts Horrors

    'You make them think you have surrendered' says Jalal Nofal, a doctor who was jailed and survived repeated interrogations in Syria

    Mandela’s Millions Paid to Heirs, But Who Gets His Country Home?

    Saga around $3 million estate of country's first democratic president is far from over as Winnie Mandela’s fight for home overshadows payouts

    Guess Which Beach is 'Best in the US'?

    Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay tops an annual "top 10" list compiled by a coastal scientist, also known as Doctor Beach

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 24, 2016 12:04 AM
    Tell the congress that Russia only wants to end the war in Syria and get a ceasefire, so all opposing Syrian sides, (not foreign), can get together to agree on what type of UN overseen free and democratic government with UN monitored elections that all the Syrian people would accept? .. No matter what the propagandists say, Russia has nothing to gain in a war in Syria, and they only intervened in the Syrian war to defeat all the terrorists that are mostly fighting in Syria now?

    Tell the congress that the US is still arming and supplying the terrorist/rebels to wage war on the Shia government of Assad and Syria to replace it with an unelected handpicked Sunni Muslim government? .. And the US demands a ceasefire to rearm and resupply and reposition their terrorist/rebels with frozen battle lines so they can continue their war against Assad and Syria? .. Freedom and democracy with free elections are the greatest threats to destroy the Sunni Muslim countries, kingdoms and Emirates? .. and that's why they are arming and supplying the terrorist/rebels?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora