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October 14, 2015

Posts in "Syria"

September 30, 2015

Corker Wants Kerry to Testify About Putin, Syria

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee wants to hear directly from Secretary of State John Kerry about the situation in Syria, as Russia has begun to conduct airstrikes.

Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker is inviting Kerry to testify next week, though the State Department has not confirmed he will appear before the committee he chaired as a senator from Massachusetts. Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 3:51 p.m.
Policy, Syria

September 9, 2015

Grassley Warns of ‘Floodgates’ Opening for Syrian Refugees

syrian refugees

Grassley says the administration may open “floodgates” to refugees from Syria. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo).

The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman says the Obama administration is considering allowing a large influx of refugees from Syria into the United States.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, was among the lawmakers who met Wednesday with Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as Assistant Secretary Anne Richard, about the refugee crisis.

Full story

With Kerry on the Hill, McCain Blasts Inaction on Syrian Refugees (Video)

McCain, Kerry chat during an Armed Services Committee hearing on July 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

McCain, Kerry chat during an Armed Services Committee hearing on July 29. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. John McCain blasted the Obama administration in a Wednesday floor speech for inaction on the Syrian refugee crisis, delivering it with a chart featuring the tragic photo of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi.

“This photo, which was taken shortly after Aylan’s dead body was washed ashore, has opened the world’s eyes to this devastating crisis,” the Arizona Republican said. “Within hours of this photo being posted, people across the world began to share it on social media, using a hashtag in Arabic that translates to, ‘humanity washed ashore.’ This image has haunted the world. But what should haunt us even more than the horror unfolding before our eyes is the thought that the United States will continue to do nothing meaningful about it.”

Full story

September 8, 2015

Lindsey Graham Floats Emergency Supplemental for Syrian Refugee Crisis

lindsey graham

Graham speaks during a Sept. 8 luncheon at the National Press Club. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

The State Department’s top Senate appropriator said Tuesday he would be willing to advance an emergency supplemental to address the crisis of Syrian refugees.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, said if the United States does not change course with respect to accepting refugees, the country might as well “take the Statue of Liberty and tear it down.”

Full story

July 8, 2015

Lindsey Graham Makes Case for War

Graham outlined his foreign policy vision on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Graham outlined his foreign policy vision on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Perhaps more than any other presidential candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham enjoys telling people to vote for somebody else.

“Radical Islam is not going to be compromised with. They are religious Nazis. Somebody better go over there and hit them before they hit us,” Graham said Wednesday. “There is no alternative to going in on the ground and pulling the caliphate up by the roots. If that scares you, don’t vote for me.”

Full story

June 9, 2015

Chris Murphy Wants Vote to Ban Ground Combat in Iraq and Syria

Chris murphy iraq syria ground troops combat

Murphy is pushing to bar ground combat forces from engaging in Iraq and Syria as insurance in case a Republican wins the White House. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy wants to ensure U.S. ground forces aren’t sent back into combat in Iraq and Syria in the event a Republican wins the White House next year.

The Connecticut Democrat told CQ Roll Call he was preparing amendments to both the National Defense Authorization Act pending on the Senate floor and the State Department authorization that’s set to be considered Tuesday afternoon by the Foreign Relations Committee to block ground forces in combat roles.

Full story

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 1:35 p.m.
Iraq, ISIS, Syria

February 10, 2015

Durbin: ‘Lives Are in the Balance’ in ISIS War Authorization

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

(Biivesl Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“Lives are in the balance,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin told reporters Tuesday on the importance of getting the balance right in a proposed Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group.

The No. 2 Democrat spoke at length to reporters after being briefed on the draft resolution presented by President Barack Obama’s top aide and counsel during Tuesday’s party lunch.

He detailed the administration’s plans to have a broad-based authorization that would cover the group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, without limiting the fight geographically to Syria and Iraq, as well as the key question of limits on offensive ground operations. The Illinois Democrat also is the ranking member of the Defense appropriations subcommittee.

How does this compare with language the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved last year?
Durbin: “The starting point was the [former Foreign Relations Chairman Robert] Menendez language. Made some changes on it. We’re really working with critical, important language, and it comes down to a phrase or two, and we just have to look at it very closely.”

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz. finds it unconstitutional, too restrictive to the commander-in-chief. How do you find common ground? Is a three-year time frame enough comfort?

Durbin: “I like the three-year time frame. It means that it will apply to this president during the remainder of his term and to the succeeding president for one year. What it means: whoever’s elected president after Obama has to start thinking immediately about the renewal of AUMF and discussing it with Congress.

“I disagree with John, obviously. John and I see the world quite a bit differently. I think the Constitution delegates to Congress the authority to declare war, and the American people speak through Congress. And if we put limitations on the president about who he can fight, where he can fight, how he can fight — I think that’s consistent with the intention of the Founding Fathers.”

Is the draft crafted to avoid mission creep?

Durbin: “Well, that’s why we always come back to the same phrase — enduring offensive ground operations. As someone noted in our meeting here, incidentally we’re talking about the Department of Defense. So, there is hardly any military operation that cannot be characterized as a defensive operation, and those are exempt. What we limit are enduring offensive. I hate to get into weeds but when you’re talking about the commitment of a nation to war and lives are in the balance, that’s where we have to really dig in.”

What does the proposal do in terms of the 2002 authorization?

Durbin: “The Afghan AUMF continues, and it’s the Iraq resolution that’s being replaced.”

Would 2001 AUMF also be placed on a three-year timeline?

Durbin: “That wasn’t brought up, and I don’t think that’s the proposal.”

Do you have concerns the White House draft would change the Senate Foreign Affairs version with regard to geographic limits?

Durbin: “See now that’s tricky. So, here’s why it’s tricky: If we limit our actions against ISIS to any locale, it really means by argument that there are safe havens they can go to and escape pursuit by the United States. I understand that. We’ve got to be able to pursue non-state, multinational operations wherever they threaten the United States or our interests.”

Are you comfortable with specifics tailoring to Islamic State? The associated forces phrase was very problematic in 2001.

Durbin: “It is still. It is still. They’re hard to pin down. If you had asked us three years ago, ‘What about the Islamic State?’ people would have opposed, [questioning] ‘What is it?’ That just shows you how quickly the circumstances and names can change. So we’ve got to give enough flexibility to have the next generation of ISIS also in our target.”

Both parties have said they want to see significant changes to what the president is suggesting but in opposite directions. How does bipartisan compromise happen and how long will it take?

Durbin: “I don’t know the answer to that because we have not really taken a task like this on in a long, long time. The last time we came close to it was the decision to invade Iraq, where there was a lot of debate, back and forth, Democrats and Republicans. It was [then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr.] and it was the Republicans who were stepping up with their own views of things. I assume it starts, the first venue is the Foreign Relations Committee, but beyond that it clearly is going to be a subject for floor debate.”

Debate on war hasn’t taken place in a decade. Why has it been so delayed when we’re already in the war and months of work is expected?

Durbin: “It is not easy but it’s important. And I hope all members of both political parties will accept their responsibility. This is one of those things where we know lives are at stake – American lives as well as the survival of our enemy. So we’ve got to take the time to get it right but we shouldn’t delay it in petty politics.”

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

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February 6, 2015

ISIS AUMF Debate a 2016 Foreign Policy Test

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Cruz, left, and Graham are two senators seen as potential Republican candidates for the White House in 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Congress is gearing up — belatedly — for a full-throated war debate that will serve as a proving ground for potential presidential candidates heading into 2016.

With a draft Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State terror group expected on Capitol Hill by the middle of the week, as lawmakers complete work before a weeklong Presidents Day recess, the debate over how much authority to give President Barack Obama will soon take center stage.

The issue will provide opportunities for jockeying among those senators seeking their party’s nomination for president, including Lindsey Graham, who recently announced his intention to explore the possibilities.

Full story

January 20, 2015

Rand Paul’s Message: ‘Do No Harm’ In Foreign Affairs

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., makes his way through the basement of the Capitol before a vote on the Senate floor, December 12, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Paul will have his own response to the State of the Union address. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Possible 2016 contender Sen. Rand Paul says that the foreign policy potion of his own response to Tuesday’s State of the Union address will focus on an old adage from his medical career: “Do no harm.”

“I think one the biggest things about foreign policy is that you should think before you act, and that’s one of the themes that I’ll have tonight is: First, do no harm. As physicians, we’re taught first to do no harm, which means think through,” the Kentucky Republican said. “You have enormous power as a surgeon. Before you cut into someone, make sure you have the right diagnosis. Try not to make mistakes.”

Paul is issuing his own video response, separate from the official message to be delivered by Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

In an interview in his Washington office ahead of the speech by President Barack Obama, Paul used the potential for additional sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program as an example where Congress should avoid doing such harm. Full story

January 16, 2015

Tony Blair Delivers ‘Churchillian’ Speech to Senate, House GOP

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Blair testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2009. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair drew three standing ovations when he addressed the joint House-Senate Republican retreat Thursday with a speech that one lawmaker likened to the oratory of Winston Churchill.

Blair’s speech, which was closed to the public and the media, included a call for America to lead on the world stage rather than to try to be loved there, according to a person in attendance. Rep. Tom Cole said Blair focused on the importance of fighting against extremism around the world at an event said to be well attended by members and staffers alike. Full story

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

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

December 5, 2014

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

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

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

McCain and Corker are skeptical of the Obama administration's messaging on an AUMF. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

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.”

Full story

November 12, 2014

New Senate Republican Majority Wants Say in Iran Nuclear Deal

Corker, R-Tenn., listens to other senators during the news conference on Ukraine on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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)

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

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

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