The Obama administration is sending two senior officials to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to brief Senate Armed Services Committee members in a classified session on the situation in Syria. Notably, the briefers are both senior Pentagon officials.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy James Miller and Army Lt. Gen. Terry Wolf, director of the Joint Staff’s strategic plans and policy directorate (J-5) are scheduled to brief SASC members on May 14 in a secure room in the Capitol Visitors Center. There are no senior State Department, intelligence or National Security Council officials slated to brief lawmakers, according to a hearing notice posted on the SASC website. Which is, as we say in the news business, notable.
That is a shift from two briefings on Syria held in late April for all House and Senate lawmakers. Secretary of State John Kerry, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James Winnefeld conducted those briefings, which were about an U.S. intelligence assessment that Bashar al-Assad’s forces likely used chemical weapons.
To many lawmakers — Republican and Democratic — President Barack Obama has struck a contradictory tone on under what circumstances he would order direct U.S. military intervention to end Syria’s bloody, years-old civil war. Obama said last August that if Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, that would constitute a “red line.” But in the wake of the intel assessment, Obama says he needs “all the facts,” and has ordered his administration to verify the assessment.
Reports surfaced this week that the Pentagon is exploring plans to get more involved, making the timing of the Miller-Wolf briefing intriguing. Is Obama laying the groundwork on Capitol Hill to plunge U.S. forces into another Middle East hot spot?
Editor’s Note: The original version of this post indicated the hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, May 7. The correct date is Tuesday, May 14. Intercepts regrets the error.
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