- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
Lawmaker warns: Chaos from Assad fall could give al Qaeda chemical weapons
Should Syrian President Bashar Assad's government come apart chaotically — a possible ramification of U.S. military strikes — the risk is high that al Qaeda-linked groups among Syria’s opposition forces could gain access to the nation’s lethal chemical weapons stocks, the head of the House Homeland Security Committee warned Tuesday.
“There is serious concern that if Assad falls, the extremist wings of the rebel movement will fill the vacuum and take over Assad’s arsenal of chemical weapons,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, Texas Republican, as the committee convened a hearing examining wider implications of Syria’s ongoing civil war.
He added that the Obama administration’s “widely telegraphed” plan to conduct U.S. military strikes in response to Mr. Assad’s recent, alleged, use of chemical weapons “will not accomplish this goal.”
The Homeland Security Committee hearing Tuesday featured testimony from former senior officials and analysts, including Thomas Joscelyn, an analyst with the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who told lawmakers that the extremist presence among Syria’s rebels has grown stronger over the past two years.
Al Qaeda “does not control the entire rebellion, which is made up of a complex set of actors and alliances,” Mr. Joscelyn said in written testimony. “However, al Qaeda and its allies dominate a large portion of northern Syria and play a key role in the fighting throughout the rest of the country.”
“These same al Qaeda-affiliated forces have fought alongside Free Syrian Army brigades. There is no clear geographic dividing line between the most extreme fighters and other rebels. For example, al Qaeda’s affiliates played a key role in the fighting in Latakia, an Assad stronghold on the coast, in early August. And within the past week we saw al Qaeda-affiliated fighters lead an attack in Malula, a Christian village not far from Damascus.”
Furthermore, Mr. Joscelyn said, “Al Qaeda has made the fight for Syria a strategic priority” since the organization, which means “the base” in Arabic, seeks to “establish an Islamic Emirate in the heart of the Levant.”
His assessment ran counter to an argument that has been put forth in recent days by some lawmakers and by the Obama administration, which has appeared intent on rebranding Syria’s rebels by de-emphasizing the number of al Qaeda fighters among them.
During hearings on Capitol Hill last week, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry, touted the work of Syria analyst Elizabeth O’Bagy, who has researched Syria’s rebels on behalf of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.
Ms. O’Bagy, who has also acknowledged having been paid to work for another group that lobbies in Washington in favor of deeper U.S. engagement in Syria, penned a recent article in the Wall Street Journal in which she asserted that “the war in Syria is not being waged entirely or even predominantly by dangerous Islamists and al Qaeda die-hards.”
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Guy Taylor rejoined The Washington Times in 2011 as the State Department correspondent.
As a freelance journalist, Taylor’s work was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Fund For Investigative Journalism, and his stories appeared in a variety publications, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to Salon, Reason, Prospect Magazine of London, the Daily Star of Beirut, the ...
- Echoes of Cold War in Ukraine as Russia battles Western influence
- Top Treasury aide: Pressure will rise on Iran despite nuke deal
- Obama's antics at Nelson Mandela tribute: Jovial conversation, handshake with Raul Castro
- Democrats join GOP in grilling Kerry over Iran deal
- Ukraine leader to talk with protesters; Washington urges caution
Latest Blog Entries
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- House votes for bargain to end budget drama
- Jane Fonda Foundation fails to make single contribution in 5 years: report
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Spike in battlefield deaths linked to restrictive rules of engagement
- Atheists smug as Hindus join Satanists to demand display at Oklahoma Statehouse
- American bourbon now better than Scottish whisky: U.K.-born expert
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow