After years of capitulation to greater and greater Executive Branch encroachment on Congressional authority, a growing number of Representatives and Senators are finally standing up to the Obama Administration and rejecting the President's plans to arm the Syrian rebels and draw the United States into a spreading sectarian war inside the Islamic world.  On June 26, Associated Press reported that the House Select Committee on Intelligence had unanimously rejected the Obama Adminstration's request for authorization to begin overtly arming the Syrian rebels.  According to the AP account, "Lawmakers last week rejected the Obama administration's initial proposal to arm Syrian rebels, refusing to fund the plan until the White House presents options for what action the US might take at the UN, or what actions might trigger the administration to set up a… no-fly zone.  At one of the closed-door briefings, Kerry outlined broad strategy for Syria, while a senior CIA official discussed the specifics of the agency's plan to arm and train selected rebels.  One official familiar with that briefing said lawmakers were skeptical of the CIA's plans and raised numerous questions."

Reportedly, several other Congressional committees whose approval is also needed to transfer funds from one intelligence program to another also rejected the administration's request.  Furthermore, four bills have been introduced into the House of Representatives since President Obama first announced plans to begin arming the Syrian rebels on June 13, all placing a block on any such actions without prior Congressional approval.  On June 19, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Min.) introduced HR 2432 prohibiting the United States from arming the Syrian rebels.  The next day, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) introduced H. Con. Res. 40, making it an impeachable offense for President Obama to engage in any way in military activity in Syria without first obtaining Congressional authorization.  And on June 25, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fl.), a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, co-sponsored HR 2501, which would also bar arming the rebels.  In a joint statement, the two Congressmen declared "The President needs to make a convincing case that this is in our national security interest, and he needs to lay out a clear and comprehensive mission, including an exit strategy.  He hasn't done that yet."


On June 26, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced HR 2507 intended to "prohibit any military assistance to Syrian opposition force unless Congress issues a formal declaration of war pursuant to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution."


The actions coming out of Congress have been further backed by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey.  At a June 27 Pentagon press briefing with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Gen. Dempsey warned, "If we chose to conduct a no-fly zone, it's essentially an act of war, and I'd like to understand the plan to make peace before we start a war."  Earlier in the week, in an interview with WTOP radio in Washington, Gen. Dempsey elaborated on his opposition, noting that "The conflict has been somewhat hijacked by extremists on both sides–Lebanese Hezbollah on the Shia side or on the regime side and elements of al Qaida on the Sunni side.  It's a conflict or a challenge that stretches from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad."   


While the Obama Administration has claimed that the US will carefully vet the Syrian opposition groups on the receiving end of the arms supplies, there is deep and legitimate skepticism that this is possible.  The Administration's case was severely damaged when, on June 13, the day that the President announced the decision to begin arming the Syrian rebels, top White House aides including Gayle Smith, the Senior Director of the National Security Council, met with a leading Sunni cleric with strong ties to both the Al Nusra Front and Egyptian jihadist groups.  Abdullah bin-Bayyah is the vice president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a group led by Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, a firebrand jihadist who has repeatedly called for a "Sunni jihad in Syria," and who denounces Alawites and Shiites as "worse than Christians and Jews."   The photograph of bin-Bayyah, seated at a White House conference table with senior Administration officials, including Smith and Rashad Hussain, the US Ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), is prominently featured on his website.


After disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and after the overthrow of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi without any Congressional approval, it appears that some Members of Congress are beginning to wake up to their responsibilities under the US Constitution.  While evidence has surfaced in a recent United Nations report and in several media accounts that the Obama Administration has been covertly arming the Syrian rebels since no later than April 2012, the fact that Obama has gone ahead with overt arms shipments this week–having been turned down by Congressional committees–will put the Congress to the test in the coming days.



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  1. Bill H says:

    Does anyone actually think this will stop Obama from doing whatever he dreams of in Syria? Was there not a Congressional bill prohibiting action in Libya which he deemed irrelevant? Did not the House prohibit funds from being used for Libya? Obama will claim that this comes under the purview of “foreign policy,” a realm that is the exclusive realm of the executive and in which Congress is powerless. That conceit has been used before and will again.

  2. JohnH says:

    “The Obama Adminstration’s request for authorization to begin overtly arming the Syrian rebels.” Of course, there are plenty of reports that the US has been covertly supplying the rebels for some time now. Or at least given tacit approval to a variety of actors (Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Saad Hariri in Lebanon) to supply arms and pay mercenaries. In addition the CIA has been reported to be training rebels in both Jordan and Turkey.
    The real issue here is probably not the supply of arms. Rather, it is the sophistication of the arms and the semi-covert involvement of Americans on the ground in Syria. Obviously, the only way to keep sophisticated arms out of the hands of jihadis is for Americans to use them and to not train anybody else.

  3. Tyler says:

    Just curious what’s going to stop Obama from doing what he wanted to anyway and daring the Congress to do something about it. That’s been the case for his entire term, hasn’t it? Clapper lies on the stand – nothing happens. Holder lies on the stand – nothing happens. IRS heads refuse to answer questions and improperly claim the Fifth -nothing happens.
    Meanwhile Juan McCain and Marco Boohoolio are busy attempting to split the Republican Party and the country for the sake of their handlers while making sure the Christians in the Middle East are going to be wiped out.

  4. The Twisted Genius says:

    Somehow I doubt all these Representatives have suddenly been overcome with a sense of patriotic duty. The Republicans are glad to have another opportunity to obstruct Obama, no matter what the issue. Much like the many Democrats who are supporting this administration’s flaunting of the fourth amendment just because their man is in office. Whatever their motives, I’m happy to see Congress saying no to arming the Syrian rebels. I wish them luck in this endeavor.

  5. confusedponderer says:

    Will US arms supply include knives and zippo lighters? After all, who would be so cruel as to deprive the gallant Syrian opposition of the tools they desperately need to fight the tyrant Assad?!

  6. Lamoe2012 says:

    I’m not hopeful Congress will rise to the occasion. I’ve seen to many examples from fast and furious to the ongoing NSA saga to have any faith Congress will stop this ongoing madness. The Republicans will no act because their cowards, and the Dems will stop backing their guy regardless of the long terms damage done to the nation.

  7. John says:

    This video will stop it – the beheading of catholic bishop and two others by the Syrian rebels!
    NSFW and not suitable for anything. Be forewarned, it is beyond ugly:

  8. Alba Etie says:

    Amen . Wonder how much of this ongoing Executive Overreach can be attributed to the several pardons that Pappy Bush gave to the convicted criminals that were the Reagan Brain Trust for the Contra Wars . Maybe Sen Rand Paul should go review the archives from the Sen Church Oversight Committee’s work – and then go ask again about what exactly in the way of arms was being shipped from Benghazi to al Nusra .
    Just viewed the beheading of the Bishop – this is totally incompetent & disgusting. A Maronite Christian I know here says Hizbollah is actually defending Christian minorities in areas it controls . Is this whole arm the Syrian rebels deal over poking a finger in the eye of the Iranians ?

  9. The Twisted Genius says:

    Alba Etie,
    I believe this is all about hurting the Iranians. Our policy makers don’t care about the Syrians, Assad or anybody else in the region except as objects to be used to destroy Iran as a rival to Israel.
    I took part in many CENTCOM led planning sessions in the late 90s where the depth of the national guidance was “anybody but Saddam.” That was it. Some of us pressed for further guidance such as the desired end state. Eventually the only elaboration we got to our guidance was “anybody but Saddam or his two sons.” I doubt our strategic planning for Syria is any more well thought out. It’s just anybody but Assad, even if it’s the priest killers of al Nusra.

  10. The Twisted Genius says:

    Every politician who squawks about arming the Syrian rebels should be met with the refrain “Remember Father Murad!”

  11. no one says:

    This is just an absurd aside re; Syrian rebels….. I can’t help notice that Obama doesn’t trust law abiding American citizens to own a gun that holds a few extra rounds, but he avidly seeks to give all kinds of assault weapons to psychotically religious cannibalistic America/Christian hating revolutionary murderers.
    I’m sure he can justify this some how. I’d like to hear it.

  12. Alba Etie says:

    It was a moment of hope to hear General Dempsey say that the no fly zone would be declaring war – (and paraphrasing) – he said we needed to know the end state before the first sortie flew. I also continue to believe that other Realist re Sec of Defense Hagel will keep us from the brink of the next ME military cluster f–ck . Perhaps CENTCOM might even be rethinking its ‘anybody but strategerrey “,
    But watching the beheading of the Father its very easy to see how a modern day Crusade could start .

  13. Alba Etie says:

    The wahabees eat the heart and liver too . Former KGB Officer Putin said it about right – paraphrasing -al Nusra are the same fanatics that butchered the British soldier in UK .I must admit I trust the Russians more on the Syrian Civil War then I do my own government .

  14. Alba Etie says:

    IMO the biggest strategic winner from our misbegotten Iraq Blunder were the Iranians .

  15. Charles I says:

    No, the Chinese.

  16. DH says:

    I don’t know; Putin is definitely in the catbird seat.

  17. Alba Etie says:

    Don’t the PRC and the Islamic State of Iran share a border ? Also I was watching al Jezerra tonight & the scroll said something about the Chinese blaming the Syrian Rebels for training & arming the Uighyurs, and causing unrest in Western China .

  18. fanto says:

    Alba, I agree – it is tragic that I trust the RT TV news (Russian Govt sponsored TV station) reporting more than the domestic programs. Even the icon of the US media – Larry King is there now.

  19. Harper says:

    I deeply appreciate and sympathize with the outpouring of skepticism that the current Congress will take any action of real character against Obama and the runaway Unitary Executive. Yes, is really goes back to the elder Bush and the Iran Contra pardons and goes down hill from there, especially under Bush-Cheney and now Obama. The failure of both the Congress and the Judiciary to act under their Constitutional responsibilities is a large reason why the attack against Obama’s crimes has come largely from “leaks” to the media, aimed at forcing out issues that should have been already widely exposed by serious congressional oversight and judicial push-back against the executive overreach. Now that the leaks have forced the issue, let us see if Congress backs down or goes ahead. It is a vital test for the vitality of our Republic. I am reminded frequently of Benjamin Franklin’s profound warning: “A Republic if you can keep it.”
    One of our best weapons in this fight is the arrogance of the President, who will make mistakes that could force the issue. Coming back this week from his $100 million African junket, Obama will be facing not only the pile-up of scandals, but a spectacle of failure of policy in Egypt, where the Administration was the unquestioning backer of the “democratically elected” Morsi Muslim Brotherhood government. Now that an estimated 3+ million Egyptians have taken to the street, where is the voice of “democracy” now? And when can we hope for an “American Spring” which is probably the only sure way to hold Congress and the Courts’ feet to the fire?

  20. Agree with Charles I that the Chinese were big winners from two decades of USA involvement in Iraq!

  21. no one says:

    It occurs to me that Obama and, ironically, McCain are having a Jane Fonda moment.
    The Syrian rebels contain a large jihadi segment. In fact some of these jihadis are Pakistanis ( ).
    These are the same people that we are supposed to fighting “over there” in AFghanistan so we don’t have to fight them here. My son and at least one other commenter here (who fought in Afghanistan) called these people “the enemy” as recently as last year. They damn near killed my boy who was on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border working with the ANA attempting to block the influx of Taliban/Jihadis.
    Yet there are McCain, Obama, Kerry, et al shaking their hands – the enemy’s hands – and smiling with them and aiding and abetting them in Syria.
    How is that different from Jane Fonda and the NVA?

  22. Fred says:

    Jane Fonda was an actress, Obama is president so it’s one hell of allot worse.

  23. Alba Etie says:

    I was pleasently surprised to see RT TV on in the lobby of the downtown Marriott and Courtyard here in Austin , Texas . And even more pleasently surprised to see Mr king back on air on RT TV .

  24. Alba Etie says:


  25. SRamos says:

    TTG, truly a depressing image you paint here, but I’m curious, having read a fascinating account of the interface of policy and military institutions in WWII (Allies and Adversaries, Mark Stohl I think), it seems to me that the political side of such equations is explicitly outside the mandate of CENTCOM et al. On this I note that Dempsey’s welcomed soberness is strictly technical factual and says nothing of values or goals, just basically, informing the policy people that they are aiming for war and need to account for such in their policy.

  26. turcopolier says:

    “Dempsey’s welcomed soberness is strictly technical factual and says nothing of values or goals, just basically, informing the policy people that they are aiming for war and need to account for such in their policy.” I presume that you are not an American. In the US it is not the function of the military to give the government advice with regard to “values or goals.” pl

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