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. pchelp, Juneau, AK

    So McCain & Graham want the US involved in the syrian war? I think Assad's bluff was called & see no need for us to go further until he reneges.

    September 14, 2013 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  2. Kris L

    While I agree that a military solution should be used if need be, these Senators have to remember that polls show a majority of Americans don't want it, and their fellow party members are listening. Obama got elected partially based on a platform of using diplomacy to minimize the use of our forces. People are tired of war. We spend too much money on them without asking for the people to help pay for it.

    September 14, 2013 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  3. SEAL Team Alpha and Omega

    McCain and Graham know good and well that the U.S cannot give weapons to al-Qaeda, who are fighting with the rebels against ASSad. These 2 GOP Fox News fans are too dumb to see beyond their hair-trigger fingers. Also, why hasn't any other country done a single thing to intervene? Why just the USA? McCain and Graham have been watching too much Fox News.

    September 14, 2013 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  4. anon

    As much as I dislike Obama and as much as I think he'd love to take us into war and prop up radical muslims with arms... at least he saw the writing on the wall from the US people and backed down. McCain would like to see us get into all out conflagration with Russia if he had his way.

    September 14, 2013 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  5. nleegray

    Will somebody please change the channel?!

    September 14, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  6. jamie

    Ask Joe the plumber what his opinion is. McCain retire, everyone sees you for what you are ...... clown

    September 14, 2013 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  7. valoree

    It would be nice if these two would be quiet for once. I realize they want their pics in the news, but jeez . . . . .

    September 14, 2013 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  8. Senior

    Why all this war-mongering, Sens. Graham and McCain? Do we never learn?

    September 14, 2013 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  9. PacificSage

    You don't like peace McCain?
    I'll be happy to sacrifice you before everybody else!
    Hear that punk?

    September 14, 2013 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  10. rl

    These two old fools can't stand the idea the Man in the White House, has done so much more than their guy. It seems that he has fixed a lot of the mess the previous one made.

    September 14, 2013 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  11. rad666

    McCain? Wasn't he the vice president selection to run with Sarah Palin's presidential campaign?

    September 14, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  12. stayinalive

    McCain should go and watch the tons of videos on LiveLeak under the category "Syria". There you'll find tons of footage showing beheadings of kids, eating the hearts of their enemies, throwing people off buildings and more – all done by the rebels Obama is supporting. McCain is senile and needs to be booted from office.

    September 14, 2013 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  13. Al

    Hey Arizona and S.C., for the love of god, stop electing these morons so we can stop hearing their inane drivel. Signed, the rest of America.

    September 14, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  14. Casey Dorman

    McCain and Graham are warmongers who haven't learned any lessons from the Arab Spring or from previous American interventions. Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Libya – none of these have turned out advantageous to the United States, nor have they embraced democracy in any form that we, in the U.S., would recognize it. Greater military assistance to the opposition in Syria will just prolong the civil war and make it more likely that the ultimate result will be a chaotic state that can easily fall prey to terrorists. The only solution lies in a negotiated settlement and the chemical weapons agreement is the first step,

    September 14, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  15. sdgman

    I'm curious, has the opposition party ever been this rabid about derailing any sort of action by the current administration? I mean, even if they were against what the administration was doing, shouldn't a united front be presented publicly? Did the republicans publicly attack Jimmy Carter like this during the Iran crisis? I was too young to remember.

    September 14, 2013 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  16. darwinfan9

    Who are these two congressclowns? Why are they bent on taking our country to another war? Who elected these bozos?

    September 14, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  17. ironman59

    Once again it the "take the opposite position of Obama". When he was ready to strike, they didn't want the military involved. Now that there is a non-military solution, suddenly they want armed action. It is hilarious watching the gop spin into the ground trying to decide what to oppose.

    September 14, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  18. Patriot for diplomacy

    "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”
    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    September 14, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  19. Bill Graham

    President Obama took the high road in this agreement. McCain and Graham tried to egg him on, and now they are whining because they were outsmarted in every possible way. Theirs was a political game. Obama wanted to give diplomacy a chance to work.

    September 14, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  20. catori Shadi

    McCain is throwing a hissy-fit because he can't get his war. Time I stop voting for this guy, even is he is preprared to talk to Democrats in Congress, unlike most.

    September 14, 2013 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  21. Mike in Nashville

    Is John McCain so dead set on going to war, again, or is this just another means to attack this administration, gees man, get over it, you lost. let it go!

    September 14, 2013 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  22. GOP= Greed Over People (Party)

    They booth need togo there and fight

    September 14, 2013 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  23. Alan

    Those two girlfriends will never like anything as long as Obama's name is associated with it.

    September 15, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  24. Anonymous

    Even if we remove all of the chemical weapons, and that in itself is a long shot and unlikely, Syria can still produce chemical weapons. Look at Raid and other pesticides: those are nerve agents as well.

    September 15, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  25. Dorothy

    And these are the two a–holes Obama sent to Egypt as his "special" emissaries?

    September 15, 2013 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
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