News / USA

    US Official, Senator Clash Over Arming Syrian Rebels

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (l) accompanied by DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, testifies on Capitol Hill, April 18, 2013.
    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (l) accompanied by DIA Director Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, testifies on Capitol Hill, April 18, 2013.
    Michael Bowman
    America's top intelligence official and a senior Republican lawmaker clashed over the wisdom and effectiveness of providing U.S. military assistance to Syrian rebels. The tense exchange occurred at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
     
    For more than a year, Republican Senator John McCain has blasted the Obama administration’s reluctance to arm Syrian rebels and establish a no-fly zone over the war-torn nation. McCain’s ire has grown as the death toll in Syria continues to mount by the tens of thousands.

    The senator pressed the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, on those points at Thursday’s hearing.

    “There are lots and lots of weapons in Syria," said Clapper. "And if we are going to expend resources in support of the opposition, I am not convinced now that our supplying additional weaponry to the opposition will have the desired impact.”

    Clapper added that a no-fly zone over Syria is possible, but would not be without costs to the United States.

    Senator McCain responded with incredulity.

    “So now you and the administration sit here and say, ‘Well, we do not know where the weapons are going.’ Well maybe if we had helped the [Syrian] people who were fighting from the beginning before all these Jihadists flowed in, we might have been able to have some beneficial effect," said McCain.

    McCain then posed a question: “Do you believe Iran will seek to keep [Syrian President] Assad in power at all costs?”

    “Absolutely. His fall would be a huge strategic loss to Iran,” Clapper responded.

    “‘A huge strategic loss to Iran.’ But yet we do not seem to know any real way to assist them [Syrian rebels]," McCain replied. "That is quite remarkable commentary on the capability or the commitment of the United States of America.”

    The national intelligence director did not respond to McCain’s words. Earlier in the hearing, however, he did present the administration’s view of an ultimate outcome in Syria.

    “After more than two years of conflict in Syria, the erosion of the regime’s capabilities is accelerating," Clapper said. "We see this in its territorial losses, military manpower shortfalls, and logistics deficiencies. The opposition is slowly but surely gaining the upper hand. Assad’s days are numbered. We just do not know the exact number.”

    On other matters, Clapper repeated the administration’s contention that across-the-board federal spending cuts will gradually erode America’s intelligence capabilities, leaving the nation and its interests more vulnerable to attack. He noted the growing threats posed by cyber warfare and cyber espionage.

    Clapper said that international sanctions are imposing heavy costs on Iran's economy, but that Tehran is unlikely to consider limiting its nuclear program unless economic pain translates into significant domestic unrest.

    He said that North Korea has made strides in its missile program, but has yet to demonstrate the capability for a nuclear-armed missile.  Last week, a U.S. congressman revealed an intelligence report that said North Korea had the expertise to put a nuclear warhead on a missile. Clapper said the report was meant to be secret, but was mislabeled as unclassified.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.