Senate to grill Kerry on Russian war in Syria

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Article Summary
A look at the Middle East issues Congress will be addressing the week of Oct. 26.

Secretary of State John Kerry returns to Capitol Hill this coming week for a tough grilling on Russia's intervention in Syria and what the Obama administration is doing about it.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hear from Kerry in a closed session Oct. 27 about the administration's response in the Syrian conflict. The briefing comes amid growing Republican anger over the administration's failure to prevent Russian airstrikes against US-backed rebels and follows a subpoena threat from Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Corker's committee is also set to hear Oct. 28 from the State Department's top Middle East official, Assistant Secretary Anne Patterson, and President Barack Obama's envoy for the global coalition against the Islamic State, retired Gen. John Allen, about the "US role and strategy in the Middle East." Allen will be stepping down Nov. 12 and will be succeeded by his deputy, Brett McGurk.

The Senate Armed Services Committee of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., holds a similar hearing Oct. 27 with Defense Secretary Ash Carter and the top military official, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford. And the House Foreign Affairs panel on the Middle East holds its second hearing the same day on the Syrian humanitarian crisis with Anne Richard, the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, and Leon Rodriguez, the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

In other news, the House Foreign Affairs panel on human rights holds a hearing Oct. 27 on "the global crisis of religious freedom." Witnesses include David Saperstein, ambassador at-large for International Religious Freedom, and Robert George, chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

On the Senate side, MENA panel chairman Jim Risch, R-Idaho, holds a hearing Oct. 28 on Obama's ambassador picks for Libya and Oman, Peter William Bodde and Marc Jonathan Sievers. The next day, the full committee hears from Thomas Shannon, the nominee to succeed Iran deal negotiator Wendy Sherman as undersecretary of state for political affairs.

The bicameral Tom Lantos Commission holds a hearing Oct. 29 on the human rights situation in Iran. Witnesses include UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed.

Off Capitol Hill, the US Institute of Peace on Oct. 28 hosts Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi for a speech on "Democratizing Under Fire: Can Tunisia Show the Way?"

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Found in: us congress, syrian conflict, russian-syrian relations, john kerry, humanitarian crisis, human rights, barack obama, airstrikes

Julian Pecquet is the Washington Editor for Al-Monitor.

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