McCain, Graham blast proposed Syria solution
September 14th, 2013
05:10 PM ET
10 years 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."

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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. Tampa Tim

    Of course John and Lindsay are upset, we are not at war yet. These two are part of the reason the world is laughing at the GOP. Dammit John, military force is not always our first option.

    September 14, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  2. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    I guess their mad that Obama again pulled the rug out from underneath the Republican Party . I like these guys but you can't fault obamas success and anyway that's what the American people want .

    September 14, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  3. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Shutdown everything in the United States that uses gasoline, diesel, and oil for one month. Syria won't be able to pay its debt to Russia. And Russia will want its money from Assad. Then what do you think Putin will do?

    September 14, 2013 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  4. Mentalcase

    "We cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran as it continues its push for a nuclear weapons," the statement read. Wouldn't the signal we would be sending "turn over you nuclear weapons and we won't bomb you?

    September 14, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  5. Whatever

    Hah! I could've written this article before it even happened.. Of course they'd 'rip' the 'deal'..! They rip everything president Blackula does!!

    September 14, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  6. 66rock

    Oh lookey there at those two mugs! One up for reelection and one looking for his life's goal, WW3. Shameful guys.

    September 14, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  7. timothy

    The GOP has been waiting five years for Barack Obama to do one thing as stupid as his predecessor routinely did and are doubly agitated he came so close this time.

    September 14, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  8. Hohumm

    McCain needs to shut up and retire. Graham is just stirring the pot. That "pot"? I don't know...anyway the Republicans are all for smaller gov't except when it comes to sticking our nose into every other nation's business. If the rest of the world is so concerned why aren't they doing something about it. Syria would be the biggest rat hole ever for the US to be involved in.

    September 14, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  9. Dr Tom

    What else could we expect from the bomb-bomb Senators?

    September 14, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  10. Tom

    This seems to be another episode of Republicans crying "Obama got it wrong. What's the question?" Guaranteed if had Obama rejected this deal, these same Republicans would be wringing their hands and crying how Obama missed a golden opportunity for peace. Regardless of how Obama got to this point (i.e., dumb luck or clever manipulation) he got Assad to agree to turn over his chemical weapons without ever firing a shot. And if it turns out that Putin and Assad are lying, and Assad used chemical weapons again, it will only strengthen Obama's case (domestically and internationally) for using military force. This is a win for Obama and USA.

    September 14, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  11. danielkarsh

    Mr Graham and Mr McCain should keep quiet. Progress is being made , now these two are taking actions that possibly could upset "the applecart".

    Why don't they go away and let positive actions take by other "open minded" leaders try to work out the differences between The USA, Russia, The UN,Syria, Iran, and other countries that are trying to avoid WW3 and trying to preserve peace around the world.

    September 14, 2013 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  12. LiberalandProud

    What else does anyone expect of these two nutcases. They will not be happy unless the President nukes Syria.
    John is still mad because he can't be the one that pushes the button. Stay the course Mr. President. No one but
    Heckle and Jeckle want a repeat of Iraq.

    September 14, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  13. danielkarsh

    There are 2 or 3 typing errors in my previous comment.. This website should be improved so an edit could be made to correct mistakes.

    September 14, 2013 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  14. notenuff

    who cares what these two has-beens say anyway???

    September 14, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. GI Joe

    Those two war-mongers can't stand someone else creating peace.

    SC, AZ, please get rid of those two trouble-makers, and take AYOTTE with you.

    September 14, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  16. Tony Antin

    These two moss-back Republicans would like nothing more than for the current administration to get mired down in another middle east war.

    September 14, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  17. wut!?!

    These two hawks are old and out-dated and so is their way of thinking. They're very adamant about blowing some things up in Syria that's or sure. They're always talking war like that's the only solution to the Syran dilemma. The real answer is to stay out of their sovereign business and let them deal with their own internal problems in any way they see fit. American can't take care of the whole world. Those people over there have been warring for thousands of years and probably will for another thousand.

    September 14, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  18. Susan

    If we send McCain to Russia will they keep him? ...Along with Snowden and the Super Bowl Ring?

    September 14, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  19. Gary Waayers

    So these two would rather lead us into an armed conflict blind alley. Do they really want the Middle East to go up in flames? Is there some Biblical prophecy they are hoping for? I would rather try diplomacy because wars tend to have a destructive phase that doesn't lead to real peace.

    September 14, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  20. A proud republican

    Senator McCain and Senator Graham,
    Are you feeling bad about your defense contractor friends as the loss of their windfall? I supported your ill thought of decision on Iraq and I have learned my lessons. Now you need to learn your lessons. Start working for us and stop working for your defense contractor friends. You have showered enough money on them during the war in Iraq.
    A Proud Republican

    September 14, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. mickinmd

    What was Obama supposed to do, wait for the GOP House to block any military activity in Syria and then try to negotiate a deal?

    If this is ""morally and strategically indefensible" then so are the knives these guys have stuck in Obama's back.

    September 14, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  22. Jampy

    Honestly, bad if you do, bad if you don't....whatever the administration decides on doing in this matter, WILL NEVER satisfy everyone. We already know that they majority of Americans do not want conflict. Already two wars behind us with Iraq and Afghanistan, and now potentially this. When Obama said we may attack, everyone was against it and now that they "may" reach an agreement, it's a problem. This country is under a civil war, let them deal with their problems there, and YES they should receive some form of punishment for their actions, but not on the lives of our men and women.

    September 14, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  23. Jill

    War mongers.

    September 14, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  24. Brian Smith

    We really wanted to kill people – and now we can't, boo hoo.

    September 14, 2013 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  25. rick

    Gee. A Democrat supports the pact and Republicans hate it. I am shocked.

    September 14, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
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