McCain: Russia's Syria proposal 'has to be explored'
September 10th, 2013
09:30 AM ET
5 years 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. Data Driven

    Thanks for your input, Senator. Now let me pat you condescendingly on the head.

    Watching this blithering bore careen from one TV interview to another has been perhaps the most embarrassing spectacle during this whole affair. Please tell me that 2016 marks McCain's retirement from the public stage.

    September 10, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  2. Donkey Party

    McCain is a horrible senator, it's clear he would have made an even more horrible president.

    September 10, 2013 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    It will be a good day in America when the administration of former (wannabee) President John McCain is finally retired. Yeah ... I know. I know. There is no "President McCain" Administration. Perhaps Cindy ought to get started on her attempts at convincing John that only in his mind is he President of the United States before he does more damage to America than he has already accomplished in his 5 year battle with Sour Grape Syndrome.

    Shame on the media for using McCain (to make a fool out of McCain.)

    September 10, 2013 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  4. kirk

    More hypocracy, what nuts this guy has to ask what Kerry meant when he added an amendment of his own that is very unclear,typical Republican, criticize from the rear. He has no usefulness left, not smart enough to be embarrassed by his words. He takes a picture with known terrorists, then says these are the guys we need to arm, he wants to be critical, without any accountability from himself, move on fool

    September 10, 2013 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  5. kirk

    He's made it clear he will criticize any and all actions by Obama, and will have zero to do with committing to one thing himself, and sticking to it .has Romney started a new flip flop school?

    September 10, 2013 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  6. Wake up People!

    Poor old delusional John still hasn't gotten over the smackdown the dude with the permanent tan put on him 5 long years ago.......

    September 10, 2013 10:13 am at 10:13 am |

    Putin and Asad are playing Obama like a fiddle. Obama will jump at anything to get himself (and us) out of this mess he created.

    September 10, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  8. Elliotu

    Senator McCain should be skeptical of Syria's intentions. I am too. However in this case we need to give them some rope to to either tighten up their situation or hang themselves. We cannot afford either another war to make things very bad in the Mid East. Hence avoiding war should be our first priority and if Assad uses the rope to we give him to tie a noose around his neck, then we still have the ability to go to war with him. Hopefully he will act intelligently.

    September 10, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    McCain needs to stfu and sit down lest we remind him about his failed foreign policy adventure with those Middle-Eastern kidnappers friends of his.

    September 10, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. Fair is Fair

    Why is everyone calling this "Russia's Syria Proposal"?

    September 10, 2013 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  11. sonny chapman

    You're WRONG "WW III". Obama was gonna hit Syria no matter what Congress or the American Public thought. The Russians knew this & they've got the most to lose if that escalated the conflict. They had sent plane in to get their people out. The danger of escalation by attack was less than the danger, in the long run, by not attacking. Obama is a Baseball Odds/Poker Player.

    September 10, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    I find Sen. McCain's ever shifting position on Syria to be troubling. He can't wait to use the military and cannot understand why the missles weren't shot off a long time ago.

    Initially, he wanted U.S. troops to go into Syria, arm the rebels and help them to depose Assad. He quickly backed down to arming the rebels, but by this time it was becoming apparent that bad elements were creeping into the conflict, forming 'rebel" cells and seemingly fighting the regime. Now, he's backing away form that position to sound more like a pacifist.

    September 10, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. well

    the world is not skeptical about you and obom ber and kerry.
    the world KNOWS you are frauds.

    September 10, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  14. kirk

    Not s big conspiracy theorist, but their is an interest here were not being told about.Syria has no oil worth mentioning, so what is this really about? There is definitely an end gsme here, whatever it is, its not something we would support. As much as i despise the gop, Obama has an agenda that worries me.

    September 10, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  15. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Fair is Fair

    Why is everyone calling this "Russia's Syria Proposal"?
    Okay I'll play Fair...
    Because that's how it is being billed.
    Because that is how the Rethugs will refer to it when referencing it.
    Because we all know that "naivete" and "disingenuity" do not look well on you.....

    September 10, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  16. Hasai

    Goodness; the Obama administration's fans are out in force today, though it seems their numbers get smaller every week.

    By the way; most of said fans' messages are known as "attacking the messenger. Surely you can do better? Perhaps even address the Senator's talking-points? Disappointing, really.

    September 10, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  17. sage

    republicans like to embarrass themselves ... cant wait for the next election. Obama is Cool

    September 10, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  18. Andrey

    I am extremely skeptical of McCain.

    September 10, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  19. Sandy

    Go away blow tired of this guy... he always knows more or best about everything. This coming from a man who had no ideas how many homes he owned i find funny!!!

    September 10, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  20. martin-d28

    McCain is on the Israeli AIPAC payroll. He will always put the interests of Israel and their expansion plans about the interest of his own country. "You cant server two masters". You cant have allegiance to two countries and do your job as a US senator. Resign.

    September 10, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    It is so very shameful that THIS administration has to use other people to put through a compromise or a good idea because it as well as we has learned that if the President says "Go right" Congress will go left.

    September 10, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  22. allenwoll

    The skepticism which McCain has mentioned cannot possibly exceed the skepticism which I hold for McCain ! ! !

    September 10, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  23. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Perhaps even address the Senator's talking-points?
    Just as soon as he says something worth addressing we'll get right on that.
    Give it a rest.

    September 10, 2013 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  24. RandyF

    Playing poker on the tax payers dime disqualifies you from being in the Senate.

    September 10, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  25. kirk

    Hasai, he has changed his position three times in 6 weeks, yet thinks he hasn't, time for a vacation Senator, may I suggest a nice war torn country

    September 10, 2013 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
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