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

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora