September 3rd, 2013
10:16 AM ET
1 year ago

McCain, Graham issue tough warnings on Syria dilemma

(CNN) - Republican Sen. John McCain, who met with President Barack Obama on Monday, said the president would "seriously consider" sending weapons to the rebel forces in Syria on top of a military strike against the country's regime.

"That means providing them not only weapons but the kind of weapons they need: anti-armor and anti-air. AK-47s don't do very well against tanks, so we discussed that and that that would be a course of action that the president would seriously consider, I guess is the best way to describe it," the Arizona Republican said Tuesday on CNN's "New Day."

McCain and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have been vocal proponents for a strategy that seeks to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime, rather than take limited, punitive strikes against Syria.

Syria possible strike: Get up to speed in 20 questions

Graham, who also met with Obama on Monday, gave harsh criticism of the president's handling of the situation in Syria so far, including the Obama's decision to seek Congressional authorization for military action more than a week after chemical weapons were used in Syria. With Congress still in recess, a vote is not expected until next week.

"This is about the most mismanaged situation I've ever seen since World War II, when they were trying to control the Nazis. This is bizarre," Graham said in a separate interview on "New Day."

McCain underscored a sense of urgency, saying the delay in taking action will worsen the situation in Syria and further complicate a potential U.S. intervention.

"To think that the Syrians aren't making accommodations to the likelihood of a strike by moving their assets around, including military assets into civilian areas is foolishness. This kind of telegraphing punches could make our mission much more difficult and much more damaging to the civilian population. It's frankly crazy," he said.

While the administration announced this weekend it had positive results for traces of sarin used in Syria, some skeptics say it's best to wait until the United Nations chemical weapons inspectors release their results from samples gathered last week. Those results could take up to three weeks. Others point to varying intelligence gathered from the U.S., France and the United Kingdom.

But McCain argued "we need no further proof."

"I mean those bodies you saw stacked up with physical wounds, I mean, it's clear that the issue is chemical weapons. He's already used them, it's been proven," he said.

Military has concerns about Syria mission

It's now up to Congress to weigh in on whether the U.S. should take action, though the president has said he maintains the right to act unilaterally. So far, most lawmakers indicate they're undecided on the issue and many are waiting to hear what the administration says in congressional hearings and more classified briefings this week.

How will they vote? House of Representatives | Senate

Graham said he hopes Congress will get behind the idea of a military campaign and weapons upgrade for the rebels, otherwise, he said, "the worst is yet to come."

"This vote is going to be too close to call right now, and if we lost this vote, oh my God, I can only imagine how it would make us look throughout the world. But if we have a weak response, that's just as bad. So the president needs to up his game," he said.


Filed under: John McCain • Lindsey Graham • Syria
soundoff (96 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    "Republican Sen. John McCain, who met with President Barack Obama on Monday, said the president would "seriously consider" sending weapons to the rebel forces in Syria on top of a military strike against the country's regime. "
    ------------------------
    Now. Where are the people who were arguing me down last week that the U.S. was already supplying arms to the rebels fighting the Syrian government? We haven't supplied anything more than medical supplies and other non-military items.

    September 3, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  2. Data Driven

    Did the fearless "New Day" program ask McCain and Graham if they have intelligence about who the rebels actually are, and what they represent? These two seem to know everything else, including that chemical weapons use has been "proven" (however, note that McCain didn't say by whom).

    It's interesting that the Bobbsy Twins here accuse Obama of "telegraphing", and of weakness, when this endless barrage of criticism from them does far more damage than whatever Obama is or is not doing. They're telegraphing the fact that we're not a united country.

    September 3, 2013 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  3. blake

    Who cares? Few pay any attention to these two blowhards. RINOs. Neither Democrats or Republicans. They don't know what they believe.

    September 3, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  4. Fair is Fair

    Are we really considering arming the "rebels", who by all accounts are comprised of Al Quaeda and Islamists?

    Really?????

    September 3, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    I can think of only a few situations where this pair, McCain and Graham, did not favor military intervention: Bosnia and Sudan.

    September 3, 2013 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  6. Dunzo

    America is a torn country, torn between those who want to help the world and those who can't even find Syria on a map.

    September 3, 2013 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  7. Neverland911

    Have we learned nothing from our history of arming rebel forces, who then turn against us with the weapons? I just contacted all my congressional folks to vote no on any military intervention.

    September 3, 2013 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. Terry

    I can hardly wait for the that these two imbeciles get thrown out of office

    September 3, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  9. Tom Sickler

    If we are going to send weapons to this area they should be detonated upon delivery...not in crates so that they could be used against our allies in the years to come. You want our bombs? Then DUCK!

    September 3, 2013 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  10. Ngau Hu Phart

    McCain and Graham...? Why didn't the President invite John Ashcroft and Dick Cheney? Advocates of American induced regime changes, have a level of moral hypocrisy beyond comprehension. NO good will come from American military intervention in any way. With so many al Qaeda fighters woven into the Syrian rebel army, it should be grotesquely abhorrent to any American with a memory of the twin towers burning, to assist that faction in any way. Regardless of the outcome of this conflict, a decidedly anti-American regime will stand in Syria. We need to keep our noses out of this one, and hold our military assets in reserve for when American lives are truly threatened.

    September 3, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Neverland911 wrote:

    Have we learned nothing from our history of arming rebel forces, who then turn against us with the weapons? ... ... ... ...
    ---------------------–
    The neo-con warriors haven't learned anything. We armed McCain's friends that he met during a secret visit in Benghazi, Libya. Now McCain wants us to arm so more friends of his that he met during a secret visit to Syria. No, thanks, Senators.

    September 3, 2013 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. End The Party

    NO MORE WAR ! Not to save Face, not for OIL or Gas, not for Nothing. Time for America to support peace first

    September 3, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  13. onlyfacts

    Grandpa Moses and sissy boy, always playing politics. These two know very well that Obama is acting on advise from the Pentagon and intelligence from our allies. Their acting surprised and puzzled regarding inaction proves they are playing their typical "make Obama look bad" game, as usual. For all we know this delay will allow our "side" to use satellite imagery showing movements that could help us locate their chemical weapons, before they get out of Syria. McCain and Graham need to shut up!

    September 3, 2013 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  14. texasnotea

    Even when the republicans get their way they are still the party of no.

    September 3, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. Nellibly

    "McCain and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have been vocal proponents for a strategy that seeks to topple President Bashar al-Assad's regime, rather than take limited, punitive strikes against Syria."

    And they plan to pay for this, how? Our current budget deficit is due largely to two failed wars, Afghanistan and Iraq. When it comes to war, you have to be all in or all out. I don't pretend to know the solution to the situation in Syria, but repeating bad history doesn't seem like the best strategy.

    September 3, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  16. givemea break

    All this rhetoric sounds familiar...DEJA VU all over again.

    September 3, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  17. yogi

    Dunzo
    America is a torn country, torn between those who want to help the world and those who can't even find Syria on a map.
    --------------
    Great point Dunzo, the second group is not only limited to the geographical ignorance,they are also clueless when it comes to their understanding of the complex situation and culture in Syria.

    September 3, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. jpmichigan

    Yes! By all means once again supply the rebel forces that consist of Al Quede, so that eventually those weapons can/will kill Americans. Syrian regime has Iranian guard and Hesbala and the rebels have civilians and Al Queda. No win situation. for Americans and others in the region. In the mentime Syrian forces are moving weapons in areas populated by civilians, so if we do bomb there will be heavy civilian causalties.

    September 3, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  19. Dave

    "Graham, who also met with Obama on Monday, gave harsh criticism of the president's handling of the situation in Syria so far, including the Obama's decision to seek Congressional authorization for military action more than a week after chemical weapons were used in Syria."

    That's funny – declaring war is supposed to be their JOB. But I guess it's easier to "talk tough" than it is to actually vote for war and put your money where your mouth is.

    September 3, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  20. Rudy NYC

    Fair is Fair wrote:

    Are we really considering arming the "rebels", who by all accounts are comprised of Al Quaeda and Islamists? Really?????
    ---------------------
    "We" are not considering arming "rebels", but rather another group of "friends" that McCain met during one of his secret vists to an Arab state embroiled in civil war. The administration gives the appearance that they have little or no desire to give arms to McCain's newly found "friends". The last time we followed McCain's advice was providing limited support arming rebels in Benghazi, and look how that turned out.

    September 3, 2013 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. ????

    The situation in Syria is typical of the dilemma posed in dealing with most Middle Eastern countries and many Third World countries. Frequently, it boils down to dealing with a murderous thug (Assad) or with opposition groups who are as bad or worse than the current regime. No matter how much we would like other countries to behave in a civilized and democratic way, we have little or no control over these events no matter how horrific they are. The best we can do is mange the situation so it does not spiral out of control into a wider war. These are the lessons we should have learned from Viet Nam, Iraq and Afghanistan. We are going to have to hold our nose and deal with people and do things we would never do in this country. That is reality.

    September 3, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. RealPolitik

    "This is bizarre" (Graham)....LOL...indeed, seeking authorization from Congress before a POTUS attacks another nation has become bizarre. Personally, I understand why we must take out Assad and destabilize Syria (let's just say it has nothing to do with freedom, democracy or helping the chemically violated people), but it's absolutely comical how dumbed down American people have become. Here's a guy who criticized Clinton for using force in Kosovo, after several massacres of civilians and ethnic cleansing, and complaining that he did not seek authorization from Congress...lol. We are living in Orwell's "1984".

    September 3, 2013 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Ah yes, the old "send more middle class taxpayer money to weapons manufacturers" strategy.

    September 3, 2013 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  24. yogi

    McCain and Graham are truly pathetic, even if they are in complete agreement with the President's strategy in Syria, they would tell everyone that they are against.
    McCain never uses the word peace, it is not in his vocabulary, he loves wars and secretly he would love another opportunity to get us into another senseless war.

    September 3, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  25. barbara

    These are other news reports. Of course CNN would never report these::

    "Syrian rebels in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta have admitted to Associated Press journalist Dale Gavlak that they were responsible for last week’s chemical weapons incident which western powers have blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, revealing that the casualties were the result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling
    chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia.“From numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families….many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the (deadly) gas attack,” writes Gavlak. "

    AND

    "We are still waiting on a comprehensive report from our Turkish colleagues,” he added, citing the incident when a gang of terrorists carrying a canister with nerve gas sarin was arrested inside the Turkish territory about two weeks ago."

    September 3, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
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