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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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October 31st, 2013
05:16 PM ET

Sen. Menendez: Obama administration has no Syria strategy

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee criticized the Obama administration at a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, calling the administration's reluctance to fully back Syrian rebels an “embarrassment.”

"Today's hearing left me bewildered that this government does not have a strategy as to Syria," Sen. Robert Menendez, D-New Jersey, said in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."

Syria's chemical weapons post a threat to national security, but Menendez said the U.S. appears "riveted" on the topic, and is wasting time having meetings about getting to meetings in Geneva.

Meanwhile, "Syria is becoming the Somalia of the Middle East, and attracting an all-star cast of violent extremists," said Menendez.

"It's beyond my imagination that, at this stage, we don't have a comprehensive plan to try to get Syria into a different track, when we have all of the consequences to the region, to our allies, and to our own national security because of Syria ultimately becoming a breeding ground for terrorists," Menendez said.

Syria has destroyed all its declared chemical weapons mixing, filling and production facilities, and all of the chemical weapons at inspected sites have been placed under seal, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Thursday.

"So far we have good, measurable and demonstrative progress and we have constructive collaboration," Head of the U.N./OPCW mission Sigrid Kaag told CNN.

The watchdog body's announcement of the facilities' destruction means that the first deadline has been met in an ambitious program to eliminate the country's entire chemical weapons stockpile by the middle of next year.

The joint United Nations-OPCW mission visited 21 out of 23 sites, the OPCW statement said, and 39 of the 41 facilities at those sites.

For more of our interview with Senator Menendez, including a discussion on the increase in violence in Iraq, and his reaction to Republican senators using Benghazi as leverage, check out the video above.

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