Testimony Reveals Hagel-Kerry Rift on Syria

Kerry Hypes Rebel Ties, Hagel Warns Rebels Are More Conflicted Than Ever

by Jason Ditz, April 17, 2013

Dueling testimonies to Congress reveal an increasingly deep rift between the US State Department and the Pentagon’s civilian leadership, with each taking virtually opposite positions on where the US stands with respect to the Syrian Civil War and the rebel movement.

Secretary of State John Kerry took the line that everything is going swimmingly with the rebels, that the US aid is bring them closer together than ever and that America’s focus should be on forcing President Bashar Assad to step down in favor of them.

That’s been his position for awhile, but Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told a dramatically different story of the rebel movement’s increasing internal conflicts and a growing sense of confusion among Pentagon officials over where the rebels actually are, and which factions are the prime movers in them.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey seemed to be moving closer to Hagel’s side on the matter, saying that his previous claims that the US was able to identify which rebel factions to arm and which not to arm no longer was true, saying there was a big shift in the past six months and the situation had gotten a lot more complex.

Hagel also sought to emphasize his opposition to intervention in Syria, warning that joining the “lengthy and uncertain” war could have unforeseen consequences and push the US into a full-scale regional conflict. He added in testimony that Congress “better be damned sure” before they approved US military involvement, saying even the “minor” actions like a no-fly zone or a humanitarian corridor could force the US into a protracted commitment far beyond what they were expecting.

 

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