Friday, January 10, 2014

what does Congress want in Iraq and Syria?

It's becoming clearer to me that Congress is largely responsible for problems in U.S.policy toward both Syria and Iraq. Given legal requirements to notify key lawmakers in advance of certain actions and, in some cases, to obtain approval from key committees, Congress has a delaying and veto power over administration policy.

In Iraq, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been blocking the sale of Apache helicopters to the Malikie government. The committee wants assurances that the aircraft won't be used against Sunni civilians who feel mistreated by the Shiite government. Obviously, selling weapons gives the U.S. some leverage, but it's dubious we can do much to force Maliki to make nice with his domestic opponents.

In Syria, lawmakers wanted contradictory or next-to-impossible conditions: military aid that would go only to Assad opponents who shared U.S. policy goals, including friendliness toward Israel; guarantees that aid wouldn't be transferred or fall into the hands of radical jihadists; no links to Iran or al Qaeda.  Even the limited military assistance was held up for months by objections from the intelligence committees.

Congress has the power of the purse to impose conditions and delays, but lawmakers need to understand that some of their colleagues are responsible for many of the problems they attribute to the administration.

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