US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L) and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at Senate Arms Services Committee hearing on Thursday, February 7, 2013
US President Barack Obama has rebuffed his national security team on the Israeli-backed plan to supply anti-Damascus Syrian insurgents with lethal weapons, highlighting sharp divisions at top levels of the American government over its Syria policy.
While testifying at a Senate Arms Services Committee on Thursday, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the military’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey insisted in response to questioning by hawkish Republican Senator John McCain that they supported a plan drawn up last summer by then-CIA Director David Petraeus and endorsed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to provide the foreign-backed Syrian insurgents with American weaponry.
Though neither elaborated on their stance and why Obama did not heed their recommendation, McCain, a staunchly pro-Israeli senator that has persistently advocated an American military interference in Syria’s domestic political unrest, said he was “very pleased” with the military’s position on the issue, but censured Obama for opposing weapon shipments to anti-Damascus insurgents.
“What this means is that the president overruled the senior leaders of his own national security team,” McCain added.
The plan by Petraeus, a former top US military commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, “called for vetting rebels and training a cadre of fighters who would be supplied with weapons,” according to a New York Times
report on Friday, which further added that the scheme “would have enlisted the help of a neighboring state” without elaborating.
The Israeli regime and the US-backed governments in Turkey and Jordan are Syrian neighbors that have openly and actively supported the anti-Damascus insurgency in the only country in the region that has openly supported Palestinian and Lebanese resistance movements against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The daily further cites Jeffrey White, a former senior analyst with US Defense Intelligence Agency and a current “fellow” at the widely-known Israeli lobby group and think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as saying that US supply of weapons to anti-Damascus insurgents “would give the United States influence with groups that would control Syria if Mr. Assad is ousted.”
“The day after the regime falls, the groups that have the guns will dominate the political and military situation,” White is quoted as saying in the report.
The US government has officially provided USD355 million in what it claims as “humanitarian aid and supplies” to Syrian insurgents and refugees. Additionally, the Obama administration has provided intelligence to US-sponsored Arab regimes such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are openly sending weapons to anti-Damascus militants in Syria with American blessings.
Meanwhile, the White House refused to comment of the high-level dispute, while at the State Department, with the new Secretary of State John Kerry at its helm, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to “talk about internal policy deliberations of the government,” local media outlets reported.
However, US press reports further quote “senior American officials” as saying that the White House opposed a military intervention in Syria at the time due to concerns about the risks of getting too deeply involved in the nation’s internal crisis and the possibility that the weapons may fall into “wrong hands.”
Additionally, they cited Obama’s engagement in a re-election campaign for the decision by the White House to reject the intervention plan.