McCain Wants Answers

This week’s flurry of peace-process activity is drawing to a close. Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton left Jordan, the last stop on her negotiations tour, convinced that “this is the time and these are the leaders to achieve the result we all seek.” Special envoy George Mitchell finishes out the week with a trip to Lebanon to meet with President Michel Sleiman and visit UN peacekeeping forces in the south of the country. Before making his way to Lebanon, Mitchell was in Syria, and both of those countries are officially at war with Israel. The administration is trying to get them involved both in negotiating with Israel and in the broader Israeli-Palestinian process.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley acknowledged that the administration thinks that an aid package for the Lebanese military should be reinstated. Congress revoked the aid last month after Lebanese soldiers allegedly killed an Israeli soldier sparking a day of fighting between the two armies. Questions about Hezbollah’s ties to the Lebanese army ensued. The State Department just completed its review of assistance to Lebanon and is “in the process of consultations with members of Congress” about its findings.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that it looks like the surge is working in Afghanistan, in agreement with General David Petraeus’s read of the situation. Petraeus thinks he sees the makings of a turnaround in the war. Gates though warned of getting ahead of ourselves, like we did when predicting success in Iraq.

And a host of advisers were under scrutiny about North Korea on the Hill yesterday. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Wallace Gregson, and others faced some tough questions, especially from Senator John McCain. The senator was trying in large part to suss out the relationship between North Korea and Iran, saying at one point that “In the past 18 months, the North Korean regime has tried twice – that we know of – to ship arms to Iran.” McCain asked Campbell about the succession situation in Pyongyang, to which Campbell replied “Your guess is as good as ours, Senator.” McCain, who was a bit annoyed at the answers he got throughout the day, responded “that’s an interesting comment on our intelligence-gathering capability.”