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

    In other words they're disappointed we won't be engaging in another war. I think it's pretty obvious to everyone.

    September 15, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  2. steve

    "Bomb, bomb, Iran. Bomb, bomb, Iran." A couple senatorial clowns. Our country dodged a bullet in '08.

    September 15, 2013 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  3. notamused

    "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."

    Never met a war they didn't like.

    September 15, 2013 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  4. James Hall

    In the next Star Wars movie I suggest a scene where in between poker hands McCain criticizes Darth Vader for not being cruel enough.

    September 15, 2013 01:00 am at 1:00 am |
  5. skytag

    "McCain and Graham have both advocated for a more muscular response"

    This is one reason I couldn't vote for McCain in 2008. I just felt too strongly that if this hawk were elected president he have us in a war somewhere before his first term was up.

    September 15, 2013 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  6. Petruski

    I'm so glad that McCain chose Palin as his running mate. Otherwise it might have been a close call.

    September 15, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  7. For Real?

    McCain needs to shut-up and retire. He's focused so much on Putin and Russia, he's blind to the big picture here. Be patient grasshopper and give peace a chance. Rest assured we can always attack Syria later.

    September 15, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  8. John/kc

    No one cares what McCain and Graham think or say.

    September 15, 2013 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  9. dou44

    Old Grumpy and Miss Lindsey. These two are a farce and circus side show.

    September 15, 2013 01:09 am at 1:09 am |
  10. Mandy

    These two war mongering fools just cannot stand a peaceful solution to anything. We and the world will be better off when they leave the political arena.

    September 15, 2013 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  11. jimatmad

    John McCain's family needs to quietly lead him off of the public stage. He has become an embarrassment to his own legacy.

    September 15, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  12. A Bay

    Russia and Syria are liars. This diplomatic solution will end harshly. Putin and Al-Assad are not God.

    September 15, 2013 01:16 am at 1:16 am |
  13. BOB

    Mc Cain Graham are both idiots

    September 15, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  14. Behjat

    When Mr. Obama wanted the congres to ok limited military attack in Syria, they were against it.last time I checked, Grahm and McCain are members of that Congress. Now that they are trying to resolve the problem, take control of Assad's chemical weapons, they are still against it and blasting Obama's administration for it. What do they really want, do they have a better idea?

    September 15, 2013 01:20 am at 1:20 am |
  15. Logic N LA

    Why have a peaceful resolution to the killing of 1400 people when you can kill thousands in retaliation?
    Sounds like Bush's response to 9/11.

    September 15, 2013 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  16. warren bailey

    I definitely am not always a President Obama fan, but these two, McCain and Graham, are so willing to get us in as many wars as they can, without coming out on top of any of them! We also have not paid for any of the Mideast conflicts. Wouldn't it be nice if just once, some of these guys would try and work with the president, instead always being against everything he does?

    September 15, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  17. Ray

    So glad he did win in 2008...we would still be in Iraq and Afghanistan we would likely be fighting in Iran, Syria, Libya, and probably North Korea...

    September 15, 2013 01:28 am at 1:28 am |
  18. Richard W. Brown

    Excuse Me! But didn't polls of the American people and our representatives in the House and Senate show little support for military action. While the Republicans did not want to support the President on military action, now that an agreement has been reached reducing the need for military action they are now complaining that he did not talk tough enough. In today's hyper-partisan politics both sides want to get the best of each other, with the sole casualty being
    a coherent foreign policy. Have the Democrats and the Republicans been around so long the they can only argue like spoiled brats. May be we would be better off with no political parties.

    September 15, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  19. john

    whats wrong with mccain

    September 15, 2013 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
  20. Nancy

    Although I don't always agree with John McCain, up until now I have always respected him. This response is so over-the-top that I am now questioning his motives. Is he really in that big of a hurry to not even consider or try diplomacy, or is he willing to rush this county into yet another war, or is he just being political?

    September 15, 2013 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  21. J.V.Hodgson

    These two doddery old men need to put their brains in to gear if they still work.
    1) everything they propose as alternates to Obama policy mean the civil war continues with the potential for further use of chemical weapons.
    2) Provide weapons to " vetted" opposition groups... Hello how long is that vetting going to take.... (as long as some of Obama's nominees to say the consumer affairs agency that's part of Dodd Frank,) and how in hell do you know which are not al Qaeda affiliates... which we are constantly told are more effective militarily than the official or "vetted" rebels..
    As far as I know thru UN Art 7 military force is till on the table.
    Freedom of speech is fine but don't mislead on important issues like this.

    September 15, 2013 01:39 am at 1:39 am |
  22. JayT

    Old warhawks need to retire before they lead us into another engagement that the US public generally does not support. These people forget that they're supposed to be representing the public– not their own interests or those of old friends, special interests in the military industrial complex, but the American public at-large. Time to remind them whom they are supposed to be serving.

    September 15, 2013 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  23. Burstbubble

    Civil wars are incredibly destructive and this is no different. Look at our US Civil war. Hopefully this will eliminate the blood shed by chemical weapons. I wish they could all just choose peace and make the necessary changes to live in peace. I know it is wishful thinking with rose colored glasses.

    September 15, 2013 01:41 am at 1:41 am |
  24. Joe America

    Aww, somebody mad they can't drop bombs and kill people. A disgusting pair of hawks lusting for blood.

    September 15, 2013 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  25. Hogarth

    To suggest that Assad is a "destabilizing" force in the Middle East while at the same time insisting on American military action seems a tidge hypocritical.

    September 15, 2013 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
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