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 Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid