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. FrankinSD

    The war mongers don't like a peaceful outcome. No surprise there.

    September 15, 2013 01:48 am at 1:48 am |
  2. Nick

    These guys just need to step back from the podium and step-up their support. Let the President lead for awhile and see where this goes because despite popular opinion, Barracktopus is pretty smart and is making the best decision he can.

    September 15, 2013 01:55 am at 1:55 am |
  3. CaliforniaAC

    Rip if you do and rip if you don't. Will de real face of the GOP please show itself. It should debate itself before speaking out against what the American people want: diplomacy over war.

    September 15, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  4. Bubba

    Why accept a blood free resolution, when we can invade and cause a bigger mess. Republican Logic is Not.

    September 15, 2013 01:58 am at 1:58 am |
  5. D

    File under: "Grumpy Old Men"

    September 15, 2013 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  6. Miriam

    Get over it McCain you didn't win the presidency. These men cannot stand that Obama is the President of the USA. IT just ticks the GOP that the Democrats have a black president . I am a white senior women and I can't understand how these Republicans can be Christian men and women and talk about a president they way they do and not respect the position of the presidency. It Says in the Bible to uplift one another and encourage one another., These GOP stoic men are rude and not showing respect for each other. America voted and we have President O and that is that folks!!!

    September 15, 2013 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  7. Jimmy

    The life of a senile John McCain
    Day 1 – I agree with President Obama, We must strike Syria
    Day 2 – If Obama attacks Syria he will be impeached!
    Day 3 – Obama isn't doing enough about Syria.

    September 15, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  8. jimbo

    McCain simply agrees to disagree. No matter what the Dems do, McCain is opposed. Easy, no-brainer political strategy

    If the Dems were smart, they would play the opposite of everything they wanted to get passed. The GOP is guaranteed to oppose anything the Dems put out there, no matter how outrageous of a position it puts the GOP.

    The Dems would not have needed any debate on Obamacare if they had simply put up a bill to eliminate all socialized health care. The GOP would have probably written Obamacare for the Dems.

    September 15, 2013 02:13 am at 2:13 am |
  9. midwestmatt

    Thank goodness these two yahoos aren't running the show. They be happy to kill more people and more of our best and brightest just to prove their missiles are bigger than their missiles. The two betray us.

    September 15, 2013 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  10. Dynan3

    Clean these karmic warmongers out. Come on Arizona and So. Carolina...we need your help on this...

    September 15, 2013 02:22 am at 2:22 am |
  11. shafi

    This is as Syria's PM says–the sole exit plan-for OBAMA to save face-too late.... As I've said before–I voted for him twice and have never regretted anything more. I'm not even going to call him Mr. President anymore-he is Obama. Grow some balls Obama!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hillary has more balls than you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 15, 2013 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  12. Mike

    Really? I would have never guessed. lol

    September 15, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  13. gabberattack

    McCain is due for retirement.

    September 15, 2013 02:48 am at 2:48 am |

    We should stop looking into Syria for chemical weapons. From the rhetoric, it appears that McCain seems to have all the chemical weapons under his own roof, and will use it on US soil to get the Republican party into power.

    September 15, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  15. Corncop

    So let me get this straight. You are against the military option? You are against the diplomatic option? What's left? Go play patti-cakes with Assad and Putin? Or maybe snowballs at 20 paces? Come on guys, can't you be "for" something? Just once? The dour, sour-faced mouthpieces of the party of NO! Just the latest "breaking news" that helps to convince me that the Republican Party and it's members are inconsequential to the forward movement of this country! Unheeded and unneeded! Why not try something positive for a change?

    September 15, 2013 03:14 am at 3:14 am |
  16. James Baker

    So McCain and Graham think a diplomatic solution that involves Syria's agreement to give up all chemical weapons without a fight is not as good as a one-time limited military strike intended to simply degrade Syria's ability to use chemical weapons? Why am I not surprised.

    September 15, 2013 03:16 am at 3:16 am |
  17. Cynthia Avishegnath

    In this case, Rand Paul and his dad agrees with Obama, even if they kept silent about it.

    September 15, 2013 03:21 am at 3:21 am |
  18. octopus

    "...using every trick in Saddam Hussein's playbook"

    sure they want Obama to act according to Bush's playbook.

    September 15, 2013 03:24 am at 3:24 am |
  19. Sandy

    The Republican Party should just record a sound bite and video to use every time President Obama does something good. They will trash the President for whatever he has done. Why can't more people see what the Republicans are doing to this country?

    September 15, 2013 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  20. Where were they?

    Are they drugging these two? Who are they endebted to? Who are they a front for?

    September 15, 2013 03:30 am at 3:30 am |
  21. Bob

    These two will be satisfied with nothing less than another Iraq style invasion of Syria.

    They need to sit down and let the adults handle this.

    September 15, 2013 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  22. Mike

    It's called pragmatism, gentlemen, you should try it.

    If diplomacy doesn't work we can always still use military force. It's not like it's one or the other. I do not understand these people.

    September 15, 2013 03:48 am at 3:48 am |
  23. Dick Delson

    John McCain, the man who gave us Sarah THE BIMBO Palin, and who thinks George W. MORON is wonderful.

    September 15, 2013 04:06 am at 4:06 am |
  24. ram

    Oh please! Can you two just be quiet once? Why chime in constantly as if you think you are in charge. Just do your own jobs and be quiet.

    September 15, 2013 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  25. John

    Those two clowns probably had a script prepared for if he rejected the agreement. The GOP is consistent and has only one policy "The opposite of whatever Obama says". You can't take those morons seriously...

    September 15, 2013 04:11 am at 4:11 am |
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