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. Jack Hollis

    These two old used up has beens should have been voted out of office long ago.

    September 14, 2013 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  2. Sam

    what a bunch of sad, senile old men!

    September 14, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  3. Sid Luft

    no responses?!

    September 14, 2013 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  4. Se777en

    The GOP plan is to just rally against whatever is the opposite of what Obama does. Whether it aligns with their principles or not. They used to be more subtle about it. Now they look like a kid in preschool who only wants a certain toy because someone else wants it too.

    September 14, 2013 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  5. With any luck

    These two warmongers will either retire soon, or get booted out of office. They are more dangerous than Obama.

    September 14, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  6. Winston5

    Republicans to Obama: "How dare you threaten Executive privilege w/o going through Congress."
    "How dare you try to go through Congress, give peace a chance!"
    "How dare you try to negotiate a peaceful resolution."
    Subtext: ("We really don't like the color of your skin.")

    September 14, 2013 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  7. Mr. M

    Don't worry your two, little, warmongering hearts , you'll get your war. You always do. It's just going to take a little more work on your part, that's all. Maybe having to plan a huge false-flag attack, big enough to scare the masses back in line, and punish all those "peacenics."

    I have faith in you. After all, name one instance over the past 50-odd years where one single high-level traitor and mass-murderer, or even their mid and low-level ones, have been held accountable?

    So, go ahead! Blow-up a nuke in Charleston Bay like you said might happen, if we don't bomb Syria, Lindsey. Who's going to stop you?

    Then it's on to Iran! That's the plan, isn't it? That is if you insane, warmongering fools don't start WWIII first!

    September 14, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  8. Solomon

    The congress cannot have it both ways. If they are not ready to authorize military action against Azaad, why should they now complain about a diplomatic solution. McCain and Graham should tread softly

    September 14, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  9. loverpoint

    And the division between the Republican Party grows even larger. Sounds like half of the Republican Party wants to declare all out war and the other half wants the USA to stay out.

    Yet both sides of the Republican Party blame Obama for negotiating a non violent removal of Chemical weapons from Syria.

    September 14, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  10. Michael

    No surprise here. McCain's response is consistent with everything GOP including ripping out affordable health care for 40 million Americans. Ok John, you don't like the way peace was achieved? Pick up a gun and go fight with Assad's army.


    September 14, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  11. Thomas F Fletcher

    The GOP is just the Anti Party. They have no ideas of their own.

    September 14, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  12. McSame

    Yes, we should _definitely_ listen to the guy who thought Sarah Palin was presidential material. He _definitely_ knows what he is talking about. And sure I mean bombing, helping "vetted rebels", and "regime change" have all worked so well in the past. Right? Surely no implementation details could derail a strategy of "helping vetted rebels".

    McCain, you are a straight up idiot. Please sit down and be quiet and let the grown ups solve the hard problems.

    September 14, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  13. Richard

    Neville Obama proclaims "PEACE!" in our time!

    September 14, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  14. Dean Borchert

    If you do not like what Obama is doing, then run for President.....Oh, i forgot you already tried that.

    September 14, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  15. gregorymunson

    What a bunch of children. Seriously McCain was all Don't Dare But Boots On Ground Obama or that is grounds for Impeachment. Now he is acting like someone took his tricycle in the playground because he got off it. Go away McCain and stay hidden. Just hush!

    September 14, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  16. Richard Miller

    Would somebody please change the diapers of these two crybabies and put them to bed......permanently.

    September 14, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  17. Desel

    The Dynamic Duo are at it again! Why don't they just shut up and sit down. If anything is not to their liking they immediately claim that it is flawed. Why don't they just attend to the concerns of the people of their prospective states and leave foreign matters to the person who represents the United States, Secretary of State, John Kerry.

    September 14, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  18. Tom

    John McCain and Lindsey Graham are simply grandstanding for the sake of the Tea Party vote.

    September 14, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  19. Aarky

    We really need to start calling our members of Congress again. This time we need to insist that both houses of Congress have a roll call vote on the authorization to attack Syria. This would put all members on record before the elections in 2014 and later. It would also show the world that McCain and Graham are loudmouths, but don't speak for the Senate or the US.
    A certain crushing defeat in both houses would also send a message to Obama, Kerry and the warmongers that the nation does not war. For those into Schadenfreude, we would also enjoy seeing Obama embarrassed by a large defeat.

    September 14, 2013 10:23 pm at 10:23 pm |
  20. dean morse

    I agree and I think that it would be best and most effective to have both McCain and Lindsey Graham lead our men into battle. And they may as well bring along Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor for backup!.

    September 14, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  21. Cruball

    these guys are not gonna be happy till we are firing missiles at someone.

    September 14, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  22. dave

    You may not like Obama but he has cleaned up a good part of the Bush/Cheney/GOP/neo-con mess. McCain should just go home and cuss out his wife again

    September 14, 2013 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  23. Anatoly

    These two reptilians are at war thing again but we are awake and won't bow this time.
    “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”- George Santayana
    “The American mind simply has not come to a realization of the evil which has been introduced into our midst. It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.”  —J. Edgar Hoover

    September 14, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  24. thebest12211

    The American people do not want to go to war.
    The Republican members in the House do not want to go to war.
    The Democratic Congressional members do not want to go to war.
    "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." The Syrian problem is that Syrians hate each other and no amount of bombing will change that.
    What Senator McCain objects to is that a foreign leader has told us the truth, "American exceptionalism is OVER and he is put off by that.
    The Congress is a failure, the schools are failures,the banking system failed us,ds the military has fought and died in wars of the last 60 years but have not won a single war, etc etc etc. If Putins remarks are the kick in the pants that America needs then he has done us a huge favor

    September 14, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  25. dmf

    Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham should know better , this pause in U. S. military intervention would help U. S. standing and economy for a long time in the future . President Bush 's adventure of unnecessary Iraq War ( 2003 – 2011 ) based on false intelligence has permanently damaged U. S. credibility and standing all over the world . The U. S. economy has not recovered yet , from the huge setback of the two wars , financial melt down and worst economic recession in decades . There are huge issues of adverse impact on U. S. economy , DOD 's readiness , lack of popular domestic and international support here . Should U. S. intervene militarily in the Civil war of Syria , without international logistical support and military backing , hell No . Why the Arab States offered to pay for this venture ? President should in final analyses accept popular domestic public opinion , and should consider : a ) U. S. can not afford another War . b ) U. S. does not have direct threats from Syria . c ) What are U. S. strategic interests in Syria ? d) Unlike Iraq War , Congress must provide in budget for armed intervention in Syria , fully paid for by a tax for this purpose . If Israel , Turkey and Jordan come under threat of retaliation from Syria , they would need to take care of their national security , the U. S. does not have resources and popular will for another War in the Middle East countries . What say you Sens . McCain and Graham ?

    September 14, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
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