McCain: Russia's Syria proposal 'has to be explored'
September 10th, 2013
09:30 AM ET
1 year ago

McCain: Russia's Syria proposal 'has to be explored'

Washington (CNN) – Sen. John McCain expressed exasperation with the White House's handling of Syria Tuesday morning while saying that a potential handover of chemical weapons needs to be considered.

The longtime senator from Arizona, a leading Republican voice in calls for military action against Syria, told CNN that he was extremely skeptical of the intentions of the government in Damascus to hand over or destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as Russia's intentions to facilitate such a move. But he didn't dismiss it out of hand.

"The fact is you that can't pass up this opportunity if it is one. But you've got to right away determine whether it's real or not," McCain told CNN's Chris Cuomo on "New Day."

McCain said that there is a group of senators working on an amendment to the Senate bill seeking to authorize strikes that would allow for a handover. The amendment would allow "for this kind of action and requires guidelines, reporting process and benchmarks that have to be met," he said.

All told, the Arizona Republican was highly critical of how the Syria situation has been handled by the Obama administration. The White House has shown "a degree of incoherence that I have never seen the likes of," McCain said.

McCain raises impeachment – if boots hit ground in Syria

McCain pointed out Secretary of State John Kerry's statement that a strike would be "unbelievably small." "What does that mean?" McCain said.

The United States needs to show international leadership, McCain said. "If the President of the United States says there's a red line and then when the red line is crossed repeatedly and we don't act then there is no credibility," he said.

McCain said he understood Americans' trepidations with a strike against Syria because of the incoherence of administration efforts. He asserted that Syria is not another Iraq War, which he said was badly mishandled. McCain supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

CNN Poll: Part of Syria strike opposition is the messenger's fault

President Barack Obama's efforts to seek congressional approval of a strike against the military forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have stumbled in the last week.

A blitz of speeches, interviews and congressional testimony by senior officials have sought to make the case for deterring and degrading Syria's ability to carry out chemical weapons attacks like the one believed to have been launched against Syrian opposition forces and civilians last month. More than 1,400 people are believed to have died in the attack.

Petraeus backs Obama administration on Syria

The narrative of a U.S. strike turned on its head Monday when Kerry answered a question on how Syria might avert a strike by saying it could turn over its entire chemical weapons arsenal, an arsenal Assad has never admitted he has. Russia quickly jumped on Kerry's statement by proposing that Syria place all its chemical weapons under international control.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem accepted the proposal Tuesday, according to the Interfax news agency.

Obama will likely speak to all of these developments when he addresses the nation from the White House Tuesday night. He has already said the handover proposal is a "potentially positive development."

Obama: 'Breakthrough' is possible on Syria

For his part, McCain said he and the American people need to hear from the president that the opportunity for a handover will be explored. According to McCain, the feasibility of the handover could be determined very quickly, provided Syria accepts international monitors.

McCain has been extremely skeptical of Russia in the past, calling President Vladimir Putin an "old KGB colonel apparatchik."

McCain: Time to get tough with Putin

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee has been ever more vocal in his criticism of Assad and his support of the rebels seeking to oust him.

"I still support arming the Free Syrian Army," McCain said Tuesday. "I strongly support it, because I believe a negotiated settlement can only be achieved for the departure of Bashar Assad if the momentum has changed in this situation."


Filed under: John McCain • President Obama • Syria
soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Winston Smith

    It's funny, the less political weight they carry, the more they insist on being center stage when a camera is rolling. It'd be a blessing for Arizona, and the country as a whole if this man were to sit down, shut up, and just fade away.

    September 10, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  2. Wake up People!

    @Dominican Mama.
    It can become trying after a while, especially when your responses to vile comments get zapped. It's getting so I don't even bother trying to respond anymore. But you and Lynda keep doing your thing ladies!!
    Brava!!

    September 10, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  3. Data Driven

    Syria accepts proposal? Sharpen your typing fingers, boys and girls in the media: you have a new narrative to write.

    Meanwhile, we await details on how this proposal will be enforced.

    September 10, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. Marybeth

    McCain is a Senator from Assizona state.
    Assizona is a state that is inhabited by Asses.

    September 10, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. Sniffit

    "Putin and Assad are playing Obama, Congress and the world as a bunch of fools that will agree to anything (real or not) to save face and do nothing at this point. It is a sad day when Putin and Assad appear strong and the voice of reason while Obama and "allies" appear weak, totally confused and impotent. "

    Yawn. Do you know what will happen now if Assad uses chemical weapons again? Hmmm? UN inspectors are going to have to be allowed into the country to take control over these WMDs. We are going to know if Assad is trying to keep a secret stockpile. Assad is neatly boxed in and if this plan is accepted and agreed to by the international community, his failure to follow it, particularly if he uses them again, will result in Obama having an easy peasy time of putting together a coalition and justifying strikes in short order. This is Assad's one chance...and despite Putin's bluster of promising to support Assad's regime if we struck loyalist targets, Putin just played his hand and revealed he's not at all fond of having to go through with that threat. Spin and fabricate all you want, but this is a positive for the world and for Obama...and watching the RWNJs/Teatrolls make a face like they just swallowed something sour, because they were actually hoping for disaster, makes it all the sweeter for the rest of us.

    September 10, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  6. Sniffit

    "Syria accepts proposal? Sharpen your typing fingers, boys and girls in the media: you have a new narrative to write."

    Indeed. It's proving quite amusing watching them all flailing about trying to fabricate negatives and a parade of horribles to sell in order to keep a controversy narrative going.

    September 10, 2013 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh, look. There is a peaceful agreement in the offering that all sides are willing to address. What has it been now, one month of hand wringing and gnashing of teeth? From our own media no less. Well, our citizens too (who of course follow the media's yellow brick road every time.)

    Another clutch my pearls scenario ...

    September 10, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  8. Anonymous

    @Sniffit:

    "Yawn.................this is a positive for the world and for Obama...................."

    Once again, best comment of the day. It is indeed, a positive for the world and should be recognized as such by
    everyone. There is hope, and our President does know what he is doing. Too bad the hawks, chikenhawks and
    haters can't see it that way.

    September 10, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  9. Anthony

    Ed, seriously. You are missing the fact that Obama has yet to fire a shot, and Putin is the one looking for a way out. Putin knows the UN report on Syria's suspected chemical weapons attack is coming, and he knows what will be in it. He is trying to save face and one of his allies. Compare this to Iraq. Bush kicked out the UN inspectors and launched the invasion, only to find out after the deaths of more than 4,000 U.S. troops and untold number of Iraqis that there was no weapon of mass destruction.

    September 10, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Ed wrote:

    Putin and Assad are playing Obama, Congress and the world as a bunch of fools that will agree to anything (real or not) to save face and do nothing at this point. It is a sad day when Putin and Assad appear strong and the voice of reason while Obama and "allies" appear weak, totally confused and impotent. Time to face reality – Obama has been a disaster as a domestic and foreign affairs president.
    ----------------------
    The right wing has yet to suggest any solution besides be against the administration's policy. McCain is the more outspoken voice on the right regarding Syria, except he's offering up ever changing bad ideas and criticisms.

    September 10, 2013 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  11. Judy

    Obama is arrogant. the majority of the American people is against strikes in Syria, yet he feels he will
    convince them tonight in his speech. He is just thinking about his legacy. I will not watch his speech because I know where I stand and he won't sway me.

    September 10, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  12. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    These hawks, McCain & Graham have no other solutions besides for military intervention. We made such a wise choice in 2008 selecting our Commander-In-Chief.

    September 10, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  13. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    What? Nobody is going to say it?
    Intelligent assessment and an unwillingness to be rushed into action without first gathering ALL facts and exploring ALL options has led to this resolution.
    The President obviously used to his diplomatic advantage the 20-minute meeting that Putin begged for before the G-20. Yes indeed, let us all remember that it ws Putt-Putt that asked for that meeting NOT the President.
    So I will say it:
    GREAT JOB MR. PRESIDENT!!
    KUDOS to you and your team on a job well done and no-win situation averted.

    September 10, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  14. G

    john mcnutty wants a war ,he does not really care with who.

    September 10, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  15. Wake up People!

    @Judy....
    Arrogant = uppity. Just say what you mean. You're one of those that no matter what THIS POTUS does is wrong.

    In the word of Sniffit....yawn.

    September 10, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Rudy NYC

    The slow motion, collective flip-flop of the right wing's hive mind is truly entertaining to watch. Initially, they criticized the President for not going into Syria with bombs and boots. The right wing was foaming at the mouth for military action, particularly the star of the article, Senator McCain. It's almost as if the right wing is making it all up as they go along, just saying whatever sounds good at the moment. Imagine that.

    September 10, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I will not watch his speech because I know where I stand and he won't sway me.
    -------------------------------------------------
    Okay Judy you do that...and since you won't be watching him you may want to try watching the news...now.

    September 10, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein

    It has to be taken seriously and then have to be serious consquences when Syria and Russia fail to live up to it. When they fail to produce all the chemical weapons, we need to proclaim it loudly and clearly. Only then can we have a really good justification that the rest of the world will accept so we can turn the places to launch these weapons from into a open field.

    September 10, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. Obama - Aiding Al Queada in Syria

    Sorry, but I wouldn't follow Obama if his was leading a parade down the street, let alone into another war in the Middle East. He has no coherent foreign policy, no coherent plan, no allies and no clue about what will happen should Syria decide to fight back.

    What is rather amazing is to read all the lefties in here supporting this ill conceived war after years of slamming George Bush about Iraq. Talk about total hypocrites. George Bush got UN support, George Bush got Congressional support, George Bush had allies. Where is ANY of this with Obama? Obama reminds me of John "Bluto:" Blutarsky in the old Animal House movie when he gives his big speech and then runs out the door and nobody follows him.

    September 10, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  20. Rudy NYC

    "I will not watch his speech because I know where I stand and he won't sway me."
    ----------------------------–
    We also know where you've been told to stand, and who most likely told you what ot think. Whatever happened to "country first", "American value", 'war on terror" and all of that other stuff that Republicans used to say before Pres. Obama was sworn in?

    September 10, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. Thomas

    John personally brought the Super Bowl ring back from Russia with ladimir V. Putin's finger still attached.

    September 10, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    @Judy: "Obama is arrogant. the majority of the American people is against strikes in Syria, yet he feels he will
    convince them tonight in his speech. He is just thinking about his legacy. I will not watch his speech because I know where I stand and he won't sway me."

    Yep, not surprised you won't watch his speech – but that won't keep you and all the GOPers/teatrolls from commenting tomorrow on it. Typical low-information voter, easily lead by the RWNJs.

    Don't you ever get tired of being played?

    BTW, I think it's a pretty spiffy thing the way President Obama's threat of force has made Putin finally take steps to reign in his monster in the Middle East. There's a very real chance now that Assad will be forced to give up (and have destroyed) his stockpile of chemical weapons.

    How anyone can't think that's not a good thing is beyond me. But then again, all you RWNJs only care about denying President Obama any successes – regardless of the consequences. Pathetic!

    September 10, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  23. ThinkAgain

    @Winston Smith: "It's funny, the less political weight they carry, the more they insist on being center stage when a camera is rolling. It'd be a blessing for Arizona, and the country as a whole if this man were to sit down, shut up, and just fade away."

    This is as close to having the power of the White House that McGrumpy will ever have. Pretty pathetic the way he's carrying on, ain't it? I'd feel sorry for him if he weren't such a sorry creature to begin with.

    September 10, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Wilson

    I see the usual shills are either continuing to wear their blinders, drink the koolaide, and taking their pay for having their noses firmly embedded up obama. No hope for them at this point.
    $

    September 10, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  25. Joan

    Now it is going to be really interesting to see how the Republicans are going to try and blackball this possible peaceful solution to the chemical weapons issue. That won't look good for them if it is successful and President Obama comes out looking like the statesman he really is. Heaven forbid, they can't have that. They must be in a tizzy just thinking about it. Ditto the press who were blindsided by this whole new revelation. All their hand wringing and naïve comments were just a waste of time while the real work was going on behind the scenes. Gotta love it!

    September 10, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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