The House and Senate committees are, of course, controlled by different parties, so this is bipartisan pushback.
Honestly, after Congress rolled over for O when he violated the War Powers Act to intervene in Libya, I didn’t think they had this in ’em.
Congressional committees are holding up a plan to send U.S. weapons to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad because of fears that such deliveries will not be decisive and the arms might end up in the hands of Islamist militants, five U.S. national security sources said…
Committee members also want to hear more about the administration’s overall Syria policy, and about how it believes its arms plan will affect the situation on the ground, where Assad’s forces have made recent gains…
Although initially the House committee voiced greater opposition than its Senate counterpart, after further consideration the Senate panel became concerned enough about the plan to write a letter to the administration raising questions about it, two of the sources said.
At the same time, the appropriations committees of both chambers, which also routinely review secret intelligence or military aid programs, raised doubts.
Funding is momentarily frozen and no U.S. arms have arrived in Syria — yet. One big wrinkle here: According to Reuters, the White House technically doesn’t need the intel committees to approve before it starts shipping weapons. It’s holding off right now under an unwritten rule that the commander-in-chief doesn’t move ahead with arming a new client until Congress’s intelligence brain trust feels comfortable. That makes me wonder whether O sees this as an obstacle or as a sort of convenient “out” clause which he can use as a pretext to cancel the dopey plan to arm the rebels and then blame Congress for having forced his hand when his Sunni allies complain. In that sense, this reminds me of Libya in reverse. In that case, Congress rolled over because it didn’t want to risk thwarting an intervention which the White House claimed was designed to save thousands from a mass slaughter. Better to let O skirt the War Powers Act and then raise hell about it later if the intervention went badly. In this case, with the mass slaughter having already occurred and nothing left on the ground but Assad and his Iranian masters on one side and jihadis and their weak moderate pseudo-secularist partners on the other, maybe O’s happy to roll over and then blame Congress later if Assad continues to steamroll the Sunnis. Egyptians are mad at him for being too cozy with the local Islamists, right? Well, here’s his chance to atone by pulling the plug on another bunch of Islamists who’d surely benefit from U.S. intervention, whether the White House intends that or not.
Or maybe O will do what he did in Libya and simply ignore Congress’s misgivings if/when he decides that he can’t wait any longer to intervene.
Needless to say, the committees’ skepticism was, is, and will likely remain justified. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who issued a fatwa on Morsi’s behalf this past weekend, called for a regional surge of Sunni fighters into Syria in late May, which is helping to further transform a civil war into a holy war. The rebels themselves are increasingly at each others’ throats, which raises the risk of U.S. weapons in “moderate” hands either being seized by Sunni jihadis or used against them in a rebel civil war instead of against Assad. And meanwhile, thanks to the coup in Egypt and the White House’s tacit consent to it, Syria’s Islamists are more convinced than ever that the only way to gain and hold power is through a gun, not a ballot. Even if the rebels do come back to oust Assad, what sort of Sunni regime is in the offing with the Islamists now soured completely on democracy?
Exit question: All of that notwithstanding, these weapons are assuredly going to make their way to the rebels in the end, right? C’mon. Team Intervention will not be denied.