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. Seth Hill

    Senators Graham and McCain apparently want to send weapons, or set up a no-fly zone, or invade, or whatever it is they want to do to Syria, So they should present their suggestions to the Congress (which can declare war) and have the Senate and House vote, and let the chips fall where they may. That's the way our Government is supposed to work.

    September 14, 2013 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  2. erdfg

    McCain is a troublemaker and has ulterior motives here. Its quite obvious.

    September 14, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  3. PtBarnumBoy

    These two should be the first four boots on the ground.

    September 14, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  4. MightyMoo

    Gumpy old men complaining about not having a war when a diplomatic solution was found. The party of fiscal responsibility wants to dump another war on America's credit card. Oy vey.

    September 14, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  5. jennifer

    Mcain and Graham? You lied about the WMD in Iraq with Bush. Thanks to those lies many of our men have suffered plus the countless innocent iraq children and women. Please go you too! All you care is to have wars, so the defense companies make money. Let's spend 1.5 trillion on a jet that can't help us in any war.

    September 14, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  6. Pete

    Putting diplomacy before war is commendable, we should stop trying to be the world's "Police" and start focusing on issues at home.

    September 14, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  7. Pk duster

    What did the vc do to mc caine in there prision camp macaine always wants to start wars mr obama is trying to keep peace in the world

    September 14, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  8. Don

    There will be bad consequences for Obama's approach and weak policy and we will all pay, with interest, a much higher price... do not agree with Obama's policy on Syria and his willingness to walk right into the Russian-Syrian (Iranian?) trap. And I voted for him. This makes me a real foole. "Yes we can" is a;; words, nice talk, no action.

    September 14, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  9. fghfghf

    Yes we know McCain, you want another war. We get it.

    The American people however don't. We don't want a war, we don't want to support the rebels, we don't want Obama to lob missiles at Syria.

    The American people want the US to stay out of Syria. Its not our conflict, its none of our business.

    If the world as a whole thinks something needs to be done, then i think most Americans would support America doing its part of that effort. But anything short of the world acting in unison, and really you all can screw off. America isn't and shouldn't be the worlds police.

    Its time to stop working about conflicts that don't involve us and start worrying about the problems at home.

    September 14, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  10. chrissy

    These 2 senators, McCain and Grahm are the primary reason we need to have term limits for our "elected children"! They have gotten too comfortable in these possistions and have forgotten who they work for. If they were to remember that than they would know the American people do not want to be involved in another war in the Middle East!

    September 14, 2013 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  11. pwayne

    "Both of these guys need to retire.....McCain and Graham are useless.

    September 14, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  12. DS

    McCain and Graham can take a long walk

    September 14, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  13. Jim

    If Republicans are against it,it must have been the correct decision

    September 14, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  14. cnndog

    I think our esteemed Republican Senators McCain and Graham need to back off a bit and see what develops. So far they seem like the kids in the school yard who are disappointed when the fight between "him and the other him" doesn't go off as anticipated.

    September 14, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  15. jake

    obama shows restraint in getting involved in syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    obama draws line in the sand in syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    obama announces that the line has been crossed in syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    obama goes to u.n. over situation in syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    obama goes to congress over situation in syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    obama forwards a solution to the situation in syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    obama gets russia to get involved in solving situation tin syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    obama gets a plan agreed to regarding wmd's is syria – mccain and graham have a fit....

    do I detect a trend here?

    September 14, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  16. Four Two

    These two nimrods are just upset that they couldn't "git some"......suck it up boys, I'm sure you'll have plenty of fights to start in the future.

    September 14, 2013 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  17. tednugent'sdiapers

    So what do these two worthless clowns have to offer? Nothing! We should have left McSame in the Hanoi Hilton to rot. That's one prisoner exchange we really got screwed on!

    September 14, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  18. McDummy

    I really wish these two butt buddies would just find a hotel room and get out all their frustrations and get out of the public.

    September 14, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  19. chris

    well seeing as BUSH's admin went into iraq for not reason and got a ton and a half of americans killed, this is a far sight better. both of these two rethugs aren't offering any solution so why not just sit back and lob idiotic criticisms...?

    September 14, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  20. RodBinNC

    Cause it's much better to kill thousands of civilians to show that my friend, Lindsey Graham, is not gay.

    September 14, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  21. markhalpert9

    What if McCain and Graham are wrong. What if the only way for Russia to save face is for Assad to largely dismantle his chemical weapons - nobody believes it will all be gone. What if we can strike a peace that does not open the door for a Muslim Brotherhood like takeover in Syria and keeps us out of a long war. Then we would have blown a huge opportunity
    If they are right and this is a sham - that will probably be exposed in weeks or months and we can do what we need to do.

    The risk of military action is huge and the risks of giving this a chance are small No one knows what is right - but I like the present plan while carrying a big stick.

    September 14, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  22. Ross

    John and Lindsay don't screw this up with your regular macho ramblings. You are dragging us down

    September 14, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  23. aaa


    September 14, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  24. Leschiguy

    You guys have not been able to deliver the votes for even a limited strike. So SHUT UP.

    September 14, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  25. atheistatic

    Let me preface this by saying I am not an Obama fan...
    So let me get this straight...
    Obama wants to bomb Syria...
    Republicans cry foul...
    Obama decides not to bomb Syria but use diplomacy....
    Republicans still cry foul?
    Am I missing something?

    September 14, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
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