Chairman McCaul Questions Secretaries at Foreign Affairs Hearing on Syria

Sep 4, 2013 Issues: Counterterrorism

Chairman McCaul’s Question:  “Next week we commemorate the twelfth anniversary of 9/11. It was al Qaeda that hit the World Trade Center. It was al Qaeda that hit the Pentagon down the street from here. Al Qaeda is the enemy, and before 9/11 al Qaeda was the enemy. As Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, I want to make sure that never happens again, and I know you share that as well. I think what gives the Congress great pause, and the American people great pause, is there’s no good outcome here. They don’t see a good side versus a bad side. They see Assad as a bad actor who’s used chemical weapons – there’s no question about that. But then who is the other side? Who are the rebel forces?

“Every time I get briefed on this it gets worse and worse because the majority now of these rebel forces, and I say majority now, are radical Islamists pouring in from all over the world to come to Syria for the fight, and my concern is any strike against this regime, as bad as it is, will empower these radical Islamists, these extremists. And we've seen this movie before. 

“We've seen Afghanistan, we've seen what happened in Egypt, we saw what happened in Libya. We saw what the Arab spring has brought us and it's not good.  They've filled the vacuum.  So my greatest concern when we look at Syria is who's going to fill the vacuum when the Assad regime falls, which we know that it will. Who is going to fill that vacuum? 

“Are the rebel forces, the extremists, going to take over not only the government but these weapons because they are the ones most likely to use these weapons against Americans in the United States. Those images of children in Damascus are horrific.  I do not want to see those images in the United States…

“I have these concerns and I want to hear from both secretaries and the general as to whether you share these concerns and what you are doing to stop that outcome, because that is the absolute worst scenario, worst outcome, that can happen.”

Secretary Hagel’s Response: “This is an imperfect situation. There are no good options here.  This is complicated.  There's no clarity.  Every point you've made - the complications of the various terrorist groups - which we have noted, are there, they're in play, this is a specifically difficult part of us trying to sort out who we would support, how we would support them. So, I don’t question that. ...”

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