July 7, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Covert Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels Faces Skeptical Intelligence Panel

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Levin and independent freshman Sen. Angus King of Maine, who sits on both the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, issued a statement Tuesday calling on the Obama administration to convene a meeting of officials from 11 countries that support the Syrian rebels to plan additional steps that could be taken to escalate military pressure on the regime of Assad. The two senators just returned from a trip to Turkey and Jordan to discuss the ongoing conflict in Syria, which has now killed more than 100,000 people since it began nearly two and a half years ago.

Perhaps most critically, neither Foreign Relations nor Armed Services has leverage over the funding of arms transfers to Syrian rebels, because the money is not coming from parts of the budget they oversee.

Senate Foreign Relations ranking Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee complained Tuesday that the White House’s covert approach on Syria “undermines our foreign policy efforts.”

“What ends up happening is you never make a public case for our public policy,” he said. “And, candidly, in the process Congress avoids having any ownership of it.

“It puts the Intelligence Committee in a very awkward place,” he added, because “all of a sudden if they approve something like this, they own it.”

While he emphasized that he supports the policy to arm vetted opposition groups — he was a co-sponsor of the Foreign Relations Committee legislation — Corker said he was “glad the administration has gotten push-back by trying to do this covertly. They should come and talk about this openly and we as a Congress should approve this openly.”

Jonathan Broder contributed to this report.

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