McCain, Graham blast proposed Syria solution
September 14th, 2013
05:10 PM ET
10 months ago

McCain, Graham blast proposed Syria solution

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham continued their all-out verbal assault on the Obama administration's handling of the Syria crisis, disparaging Saturday's U.S.-Russian agreement as "morally and strategically indefensible."

"It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley," the senators said in a joint statement, "and the Obama administration is being led into it by Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin."


Calling the agreement "meaningless," the Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee lambasted the White House's latest attempt to walk the country back from the brink of a military confrontation with the Syrian government.

Russia and the United States announced Saturday that they have reached a groundbreaking deal on a framework to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons.

Syria must submit within one week a comprehensive list of its chemical weapons stockpile, Secretary of State John Kerry said, and international inspectors must be on the ground no later than November.

McCain, of Arizona, and South Carolina’s Graham criticized the pact as the latest use of rhetorical gymnastics by the Oval Office, an evolution that has seen President Barack Obama go from labeling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a "menace (that) must be confronted" to, in the words of McCain and Graham, "our negotiating partner."

"This agreement does nothing to resolve the real problem in Syria," the two said. "[Assad] can go on slaughtering innocent civilians and destabilizing the Middle East."

McCain and Graham have both advocated for a more muscular response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on August 21, recommending the administration provide more weapons to moderate opposition groups.

In the statement, the senators reiterated that "significantly" increasing the United States' support to vetted opposition forces inside Syria is the only thing capable of turning the tides of the raging civil war and creating "real conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict."

For the longtime senators, Saturday's agreement is more evidence that the Obama administration is unwilling to do what's necessary to stop the al-Assad regime, and now has fully retreated from its previous position of stating the Syrian despot "must go."

"Assad will use the months and months afforded to him to delay and deceive the world using every trick in Saddam Hussein's playbook," McCain and Graham said.

The senators blasted the proposed accord, which would not explicitly threaten the use of force if the al-Assad regime failed to place its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control, as "an act of provocative weakness."

Beyond the agreement's impact for Syria, the Republican duo say the developments underscore the United States' waning influence abroad and the president's poor stewardship of national security interests. McCain and Graham say Obama's reluctance to lead a more robust response will further embolden Syria's neighbor, Iran, to continue flaunting U.S. warnings about its nuclear program.

"We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapons," the statement read.

While McCain and Graham sharply rejected the framework agreement, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee weighed in favorably on the outcome of the talks between Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, praising the accommodation as "significant progress."

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, disagreeing with McCain and Graham's assessment, said the pact is "enforceable" and that he believes it will achieve "an even better outcome than the goals of the authorization approved just a few days ago."

Levin also backed the administration's handling of the negotiations. Unlike the Republican chorus headlined by McCain, Graham and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, Levin said the accord represents a strategic victory for the United States over their Russian and Syrian counterparts. Levin also insisted that the framework still leaves a military response on the table and that the Obama administration "remains prepared to act."

"Russia and Syria sought two things in any agreement: a promise on our part not to use military force, and an end to international support for the Syrian opposition," Levin said. "This agreement includes neither item."


Filed under: John Kerry • John McCain • Lindsey Graham • Obama administration • President Obama • Russia • Syria
soundoff (509 Responses)
  1. uncommon sense

    I'm pretty sure whatever the current president wants to do, or thinks about doing in Syria (or anywhere else in the world) will be WRONG in the eyes of the GOP. And I'm pretty sure if the GOP (Romney) had won, Rumsfield and a bunch of the other Bush Cronnies would have been appointed to his administration – and there would have been troops already sent to the area without asking congress or anyone else. So which would you want?

    September 15, 2013 04:18 am at 4:18 am |
  2. Dr Strangelove

    McCain and Graham are poster boys for term limits. Bought and paid for corporate hacks. Pandering to the base PAC money. They have plenty of money to bailout Wall Street, double the historic defense spending, but no money or plan to help the middle class. Just worthless parrots for the elite.

    September 15, 2013 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  3. steve

    republicans as a group seem mentally ill.

    September 15, 2013 04:45 am at 4:45 am |
  4. Olim

    Who is McCain? Clown?

    September 15, 2013 04:54 am at 4:54 am |
  5. debbie

    Hey McCain – we're not trying to solve their problems, that's for them to do. We don't need to interfere. They just need to not use chemicals. We don't want another war. You got a better idea that makes sense? Or you just want to complain?

    September 15, 2013 05:01 am at 5:01 am |
  6. realist512

    Syria remove the WMDs without a bomb from Obama. Sounds like a win to me.

    It seems that McCain wants everyone to pay a war price. After all, he did. His buddy has no right to call for war. In 1998, according to the Congressional daily newspaper The Hill, Graham was describing himself on his website as an Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm veteran. In reality, he never left South Carolina.

    September 15, 2013 05:05 am at 5:05 am |
  7. C Lewis

    When was the last time Senator McCain was satisfied with anything? I hope Lindsay Graham doesn't follow in his footsteps.

    With the new Iranian president tweeting Happy Rosh Hashanah at Israel and a possible diplomatic resolution to the Syrian crisis, McCain's chance for military conflict (bomb, bomb, bomb) in the Middle East appears to be slipping further away.

    The American public is weary, and the idea of arming more militant rebels in Syria is very unattractive to them. Most hope that the POTUS and Mr. Putin can find a better path forward.

    Lastly, let me add that I hope Senator McCain doesn't embarrass all of us with his upcoming op-ed in Pravda.ru.

    September 15, 2013 05:37 am at 5:37 am |
  8. Thetruth

    The warmongers are at it again. I'm I surprised that they don't want to give peace a chance? No. I have wondered what their motivation is that is making them to want to spill blood at all cost. I hope everyone sees them for what they are

    September 15, 2013 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  9. kingsart04

    Maccain is a total lunatic. Its a shame to have someone like him on a party like GOP.

    September 15, 2013 06:15 am at 6:15 am |
  10. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Of course they do. They could just taste that money that would roll their way if war broke out.

    September 15, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  11. Name Uche Agonsi

    The pleasure is for McCain and Graham. Its been their game all these while. We only have to wait for UN report on which of the Syria conflict sides used the chemical weapon to know whose idea it was originally for the usage. Foreign policy decissions are supposed to be Obama's Administration responsibility. What is puzzling is why he subjected that portfolio to be influenced by opinions of two old Repub war-mongering lunatics like McCain and Graham. Its better to make haste while the sun shines, by ridding this portfolio of bad rubbish, moreso, as earlier decissions have been given a face-saving exist by the Russians.

    September 15, 2013 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  12. Tabeth

    Very shameful indeed
    when something does not go your way, it is wrong....What kind of senators are you really?
    When boots are on the ground in Syria...you threaten impeachment...double face hypocrite to the bones

    September 15, 2013 07:53 am at 7:53 am |
  13. joe blow

    A year from now, Putin and Assad will still be giggling at the US.

    September 15, 2013 08:09 am at 8:09 am |
  14. don in albuquerque

    Not enough blood or money in it for these two.

    September 15, 2013 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  15. Winston Smith

    Well suit up boys. All we need is one more and it could be just like Tom, Dick and Harry, going on a picnic in the park. Seems anytime there's a peaceful solution to any crisis, the republicans are disappointed.

    September 15, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  16. G-G- MA

    Right? Wrong? Weak or Wise? Who Knows? However, President Obama has tried and still 'clutching at straws" to prevent America from becoming entangle in another quagmire. Who can we trust? Who knows? we can't even trust our own elected officials.
    As for McCain,( a graduate at the bottom of his military class) his advice is worth as much as his diploma.
    America is going down a slippery path, instead of bickering, we should try to find strength in pulling together. Majority of Americans are against intervention is Syria...so let's avoid another another Iraq by any means necessary.

    It's a had pill to swallow, but America need Russia and China support as well as others to help deescalate the crisis in the middle east.

    September 15, 2013 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  17. Rick McDaniel

    Both have lost all sensibility.

    September 15, 2013 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  18. Wake up People!

    Of course they do. Neither has ever met a country they didn't want to bomb.

    September 15, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  19. GOP = Greed Over People

    These two are joined at the hip, if there is a Sunday morning show within 500 miles of D.C.

    As much time as they spend together, they must have D.C. houses next door to one another.

    September 15, 2013 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  20. Bessy

    These two just love to see a war going on. McCain is also throwing out " feelers " about running for POTUS again. Wonder if Sarah is available to join him again ? Maybe Lindsey will be the chosen running mate this time. LOL

    September 15, 2013 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  21. gmat

    Look up "flaunting" vs "flouting"

    September 15, 2013 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  22. Bob Liskey

    It was such a sad time in US history. It was also inspirational time to have Martin Luther King lead the Civil Rights movement. MLK is one of America's greatest Americans.

    September 15, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  23. gulamj

    These two Senators need to look hard at the mirror. Look at the hurt they have caused in Libya, Iraq, Egypt and Afghanistan. We are still reeling there. They continuously support the oppositions and when they get in all they can muster up is an "OOPS"

    Lets give diplomacy a chance to work its way

    September 15, 2013 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  24. Henry

    McCain and Graham don't understand the nature of foreign policy. Usually, foreign policy is not a choice between something bad and something better. More frequently, it's a choice between something bad and something worse. Nobody wants to admit it, but Syria may be better off, at least in the short run, with Assad rather than a government of lunatics determined to set-up a jihadists theocracy.

    September 15, 2013 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  25. Michael Nicula

    McCain should go back to his online poker game. Maybe ask his old friend Graham to join.

    September 15, 2013 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
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