The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday approved President Obama's nominations of two veteran State Department officials to serve in more-senior nuclear arms-control positions, the Hill newspaper reported.
Current acting undersecretary of State for arms control and international security Rose Gottemoeller has been nominated to formally occupy that position. Prior to provisionally stepping into the role in February 2012 that was formerly held by Ellen Tauscher, Gottemoeller served as assistant secretary of State for arms control, verification and compliance and as the lead U.S. negotiator in New START talks with Russia. If approved by the full Senate, Gottemoeller would oversee three offices inside the State Department -- the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Space and Defense Policy Frank Rose has been nominated to fill Gottemoeller's vacated role heading up treaty verification and compliance efforts at Foggy Bottom. In his current role, Rose has been very involved in missile defense cooperation talks with foreign allies and security partners. He is a former staffer of both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Though their nominations were cleared by the Foreign Relations Committee it is not clear that they will so easily be approved by the Senate, according to The Hill. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has promised to block all White House nominees until certain questions are answered about the 2012 terror attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
The Foreign Relations panel on Thursday also examined the U.S. government's response to the Syrian civil war, which multiple Republican senators strongly criticized.
U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford told the committee the United States has performed admirably in its support of the Syrian opposition. The envoy said he does not believe Syrian President Bashar Assad will win the war, a contention that Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) pushed back sharply against.
"The fact is that he was about to be toppled a year ago, or over a year ago. Then Hezbollah came in. The Russians stepped up their effort. Then the Iranian Revolutionary Guard intervened," McCain said. "And he continues to maintain his position of power and slaughtering innocent Syrian civilians."
Ford touted the agreement reached with Damascus on the destruction of its chemical weapons as one of the most important victories to come out of the Syrian war.
"We think that the destruction of the regime's chemical weapons is a huge success if in fact it is carried out fully," he said. "That was a core U.S. national security interest."