Rep. Wolf: Obama's Handling of Syria 'Amateur Hour'

Tuesday, 10 Sep 2013 06:47 PM

By Cathy Burke and Kathleen Walter

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The Obama administration's justification for air strikes in Syria has been muddled from the start — "confused," haphazard, and "a little bit of amateur hour," Republican Virginia Rep. Frank Wolf said Tuesday.

As President Barack Obama prepared for an address to the nation Tuesday night on chemical weapons in Syria — and pursued a diplomatic proposal — Wolf, a Republican, told Newsmax TV the administration hasn't done a good job of explaining its policy.

Story continues below video.

"It's been so confused," he said. "First they said it was a shot across the bow, then ... it was a pin prick, then ... it was going to be more, then ... it was going to be moving, changing momentum.

"... It's been sort of a little bit of amateur hour. It has not been very well thought-out."

Wolf pointed out gaping questions that were never addressed in public, including a strategy for a "worst-case scenario," and what would happen after a strike.

"There is the concern about some of the jihadist Islamists that are roaming through the country," he noted. "What does this mean with regard to them? We had some Christians from Syria contact us to let us know the difficulties that they're going through [in] one of those Christian villages outside of Damascus that fell over the weekend. You have people from Afghanistan, from Yemen, from a number of countries that are in there now, and strange al-Qaida type groups."

Wolf said he's recommended bringing together an expert team to devise the best strategy in Syria, including former Secretary of State James Baker, who served under President George H.W. Bush, and military specialists.

Yet he hasn't heard a word in reply.

"Based on everything that I know and have attended the briefing and read everything I could get my hands on ... you're going to see the Congress, particularly the House, vote [air strikes] down," he said.

Wolf said he's encouraged, however, by a proposal from Russia that Syria hand over its chemical weapons.

"It's kind of strange that the Russians are bailing the administration out but if it works, fine," he said. "You have to pursue it ... You remember former President Reagan said 'trust but verify,' so you have to verify and see — but certainly now that that's out there they ought to pursue it."

Wolf also reiterated his call for a select committee to investigate the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi — including a suspected link to the civil war in Syria.

"Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of the attack on Benghazi and we have no answers," he said. "In fact, we have more questions today than we did at the time.

"There are many people that believe that the annex run by the CIA was being used to collect weapons that were later going on to Turkey and then on to Syria and not knowing who in the Syrian opposition forces were getting the weapons ... That's why we've been urging and pushing for a select committee, bipartisan, made up of the various committees — judiciary, armed services, intelligence, foreign affairs, government operations — to hold special public hearings, subpoena witnesses to get to the bottom [of the attack]."

It hasn't happened yet, despite the urgency, he said, adding his resolution now has 172 co-sponsors.

"We don't know why they were told to stand down, we don't know why there was a Libyan plane that took the wounded out and not an American plane, we don't really know anything," he said.

Still, Wolf insists, the nation is safer now from terrorism than it was on 9/11.

"... al-Qaida has not been defeated and al-Qaida is spreading around the world and the world is still a dangerous place," he said. "But our military and the FBI and many other agencies have done a very good job ... we are safer today than we were."

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