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December 19, 2014

Posts in "Syria"

December 9, 2014

Watch: John Kerry Testifies on ISIS War

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a 2 p.m. hearing on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force in the United States’ war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Secretary of State John Kerry will testify.

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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December 5, 2014

Kerry Warns Feinstein of CIA Torture Report’s Possible Impact on Hostages

dw101215124 312x335 Kerry Warns Feinstein of CIA Torture Reports Possible Impact on Hostages

In happier times. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein Friday about the possible impact of her committee’s imminent CIA torture report on American hostages and the war on ISIS.

“He called his former colleague to discuss the broader implications of the timing of the report’s release because a lot is going on in the world, and he wanted to make sure that foreign policy implications were being appropriately factored into timing. These include our ongoing efforts against ISIL and the safety of Americans being held hostage around the world,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “That anyone would mischaracterize this call or question reasonable, proper, private discussions raises questions about what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Feinstein, a California Democrat, said Thursday that she had reached agreement with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on remaining redaction issues and that the report for public release was being printed.
Full story

November 20, 2014

McCain, Corker Doubtful of White House’s ISIS Strategy, Intent for AUMF

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McCain and Corker are skeptical of the Obama administration’s intent for an AUMF. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Leaving Wednesday’s closed briefing on the fight against the Islamic State, the terror group also known as ISIS or ISIL, Sen. John McCain said he doubted the Obama administration really wanted to have a new Authorization for Use of Military Force at all.

“They keep talking about the AUMF. They haven’t, they haven’t sent over anything. I’ve been involved in numerous of these crises where they send over a request for the authorization for the use of military force,” the Arizona Republican said. “You can’t believe they really want it if they don’t even send over a proposal.”

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November 12, 2014

New Senate Republican Majority Wants Say in Iran Nuclear Deal

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Any nuclear deal with Iran needs to be approved by the Senate, Corker said. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Republicans are gearing up to try to force President Barack Obama to give Congress veto power over an agreement about nuclear weapons with Iran.

The expected chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee signaled Wednesday that getting a say in any such deal will be a priority of GOP senators when they take over next year.

“Nov. 24 is going to be the time frame which we’ll know more clearly whether there’s going to be an extension or something has actually been reached. But I would imagine that regardless … there will be a desire very quickly after the first of the year for Congress to weigh in on the topic in some form or fashion,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., told reporters. “Whether it’s ensuring, you know, that Congress has a vote in final outcome or some other way, my sense is that there’ll be a move pretty quickly to speak to that legislatively.”

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 9:32 p.m.
Iran, Policy, Syria

September 22, 2014

Before Approving ISIS War, Menendez Wants Intelligence Briefing (Video)

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Ranking member Bob Corker, left, and Menendez listen as Kerry testifies about the ISIS threat (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The senator leading a push to authorize the war against ISIS after the elections wants an intelligence briefing first, so lawmakers know the full extent of the covert operations already under way.

Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez aired his frustrations last week when Secretary of State John Kerry came to testify before his old committee about the administration’s plans to fight the terror group known as ISIS or ISIL.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., asked about published reports of covert efforts to train Syrian rebels.

“I know it’s been written about in the public domain, that there is, quote, ‘a covert operation.’ But … I can’t confirm or deny whatever that’s been written about and I can’t really go into any kind of possible program,” Kerry responded.

That prompted Menendez to chime in shortly afterward, saying the committee’s inability to get access to information about covert operations was an issue with both the Obama administration and the Senate itself. He questioned how the panel could properly draft a new Authorization for Use of Military Force without such details. Full story

September 17, 2014

Kaine Introduces Limited ISIS War Authorization

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Tim Kaine is introducing a limited war authorization against ISIS, even as Congress is set to jet out of town without an authorization vote before the elections.

The Virginia Democrat, who has led the push for Congress to go on record, would limit the use of ground forces in the conflict to rescue missions and to go after high-value targets. The authority against ISIS, also known as ISIL or the Islamic State, would expire after a year.

He also proposes to repeal the 2002 authorization to use military force (AUMF) in Iraq, something the White House has said it supports.

“Last week, President Obama laid out a strong case for the need to degrade and destroy ISIL and invited broader Congressional support for this effort,” Kaine said in a statement. “I was heartened when Foreign Relations Committee Chairman (Robert) Menendez answered this call by saying the committee would soon craft authorizing language for the U.S. military mission. It’s my hope that this proposal will help move the ball forward on what a specific and narrow authorization for limited military action against ISIL should look like.”

Kaine again knocked the Congress for ducking the authorization question for now.

“If Congress isn’t willing to do the hard work – to debate and vote on an authorization – we should not be asking our servicemembers to go into harm’s way,” he said.

Here’s the full text of Kaine’s proposal: Full story

September 11, 2014

Senate Democrats Seek More Information on Obama’s ISIS Plan (Updated)

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Senate Democratic leaders held a press conference Sept. 11. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 6:40 p.m. | The Senate’s top Pentagon appropriator told reporters Thursday he will be probing the Obama administration about legal authorities for the fight against Islamic State extremists, including in Syria.

“I have a lot of questions to ask about how they’re both interpreting the vote on the invasion of Iraq and the [authorization of use of military force] with Afghanistan,” Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., said after a news conference where Senate Democratic leaders called for Congress to unite behind President Barack Obama as the nation confronts ISIS.

Durbin, who is chairman of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said after an all-senators closed briefing that he had gotten answers to questions about authority for the new military actions. Asked whether or not they were answers he wanted, the senator said the issue will be discussed at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing next week.

Full story

September 3, 2014

McCain: Senate Shouldn’t Leave Without Authorizing Use of Force Against ISIS (Video)

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Updated 6:03 p.m. | NORFOLK, Va. — Sen. John McCain said Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t leave Washington for the mid-term election break until authorizing the use of force against ISIS.

Speaking with reporters after a campaign event for GOP Senate candidate Ed Gillespie at a VFW hall, the Arizonan dismissed the idea that the Senate is only scheduled to be in session for two weeks in September, where advancing a continuing resolution to keep the government running will highlight the agenda.

“I believe that these two weeks should be used to continue the CR, but most importantly the issue of this whole ISIS situation has to be reviewed. We have to have hearings. I know we’re scheduling hearings in the Armed Services Committee, and we have to act, in my view, on the authorization of use of military force,” McCain said. “And we don’t have to leave after two weeks. We can stay in session. This is an international crisis. This is a direct threat to the United States of America. That’s according to the intelligence people, the secretary of Defense, etc.”

Full story

September 2, 2014

Senate Democrat Proposes Authorization to Strike ISIS in Syria

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Nelson (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., plans to introduce legislation next week that would give President Barack Obama definitive authority to launch airstrikes against the Islamic State terror group in Syria — as senators on both sides of the aisle ramp up calls for military action.

“This will ensure there’s no question that the president has the legal authority he needs to use airstrikes in Syria,” Nelson said in a release.

While Obama has ordered airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, some policy experts have questioned whether the administration has the clear legal authority — independent of Congress — to broaden the air campaign to strike targets in Syria. Nelson’s legislation is designed to allay those doubts. Full story

August 26, 2014

McConnell Wants Details From Obama on Plans for ISIS

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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell wants President Barack Obama to present Congress with a plan to fight the Islamic State, including any potential needs for a new authorization for use of military force.

“The President needs to develop a regional strategy, working with our allies, to defeat ISIL, and to use the full extent of his authorities to attack this enemy force. The President needs to present this plan to the Congress and the American people. And where the President believes he lacks authority to execute such a strategy, he needs to explain to the Congress how additional authority for the use of force will protect America,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement provided to CQ Roll Call. “The threat from ISIL can no longer be ignored, and it is time for President Obama to exercise some leadership in launching a response.”

Full story

April 8, 2014

McCain, Kerry Have Tense Exchange at Foreign Relations Hearing (Video)

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., confronted Secretary of State John Kerry about the Obama administration’s foreign policy in a heated exchange at a Senate Foreign Relations hearing Tuesday.

“I must say, I think you’re about to hit the trifecta,” McCain told Kerry, citing the ongoing conflict in Syria, the seemingly stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and the uncertain nuclear deal with Iran, which McCain predicted would collapse.

McCain further lambasted Kerry, who was testifying on the administration’s national security and foreign policy budget priorities, on failing to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine, saying the failure to do so was “beyond logic.”

“On the issue of Ukraine, my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, used to say talk softly, but carry a big stick,” said the Arizona Republican. “What you’re doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small stick, in fact, a twig.” Full story

January 21, 2014

McCain Says Obama Is Worse Than Carter

“I thought Jimmy Carter was bad.”

That’s what Sen. John McCain said Tuesday, speaking about the Syria policy of President Barack Obama’s administration. The Arizona Republican went further, saying the Syria situation could ultimately pose a terrorist threat to the United States. McCain made his comments during a wide-ranging interview on the Phoenix radio station KFYI.

“If you don’t care about Syria, my dear listeners, if you don’t care about Syria, it’s becoming a regional conflict. It’s spread to Lebanon. It’s spread to Turkey. It’s spread to Jordan. It is spreading throughout the region, and sooner or later it will affect the United States of America if you allow a place to become a base for al-Qaida,” McCain said. “I have never seen anything like this in my life. I thought Jimmy Carter was bad, but he pales in comparison to this president in my view.”

Full story

September 10, 2013

Senate Hits Pause Button on Syria Response

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

As developments in Syria moved faster than the Senate’s slow-moving schedule, senators from both parties called for a pause in the chamber’s action on authorizing the use of force against Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., went so far as to suggest that open discussions about revising the use of force resolution that he helped draft as ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee might be counterproductive — at least until there’s a chance to assess the credibility of reports that Syria has agreed to give up its chemical weapons.

“My thoughts are we hit the pause button until we see whether … there’s any credibility to this offer. My guess is that, you know, that I don’t have a lot of faith in the Russians personally, but I think on the other hand, apparently at the G-20 meeting there was a side meeting at the end … the president had in the hand the fact that the Foreign Relations Committee had voted out the authorization for the use of force,” Corker said.

Full story

McConnell Opposes Syria Strike

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Tuesday announced his opposition to authorizing strikes on Syria at the same time that it was becoming clearer that the Senate may not proceed with an outright authorization resolution.

McConnell, who is up for re-election in 2014 and facing a conservative challenger, is the only one of the “big four” congressional leaders to oppose striking Syria in response to intelligence suggesting that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.

Libertarian Rand Paul, the junior senator in the Bluegrass State, has been one of the most vocal opponents of engaging in Syria, though McConnell took steps to point out that he was not opposing strikes on isolationist grounds. Full story

Senate Syria ‘Gang’ Discussing New Resolution

Another “gang” may have popped up in the Senate, this time on Syria.

Some of the members have past experience in such bipartisan groups. As many as nine senators, including a member of the Democratic leadership, are working on a new resolution that would ultimately authorize the use of force against Syria unless the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles can be secured by the international community.

Under the proposal, which is still in the conceptual stages, the United Nations would need to agree to a resolution acknowledging that the Syrian government was responsible for gassing its own people. Then, the United Nations would need to act to secure Syria’s remaining weapons to prevent future use, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Otherwise, the measure would authorize the use of force.

Full story

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