Sen. John McCain is accusing President Barack Obama of pursuing "a feckless foreign policy" that has compromised American influence around the world.
The Arizona Republican, who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election, tells NBC's "Today" show that "I'd like to see the president of the United States speak up once for the 20,000 people that are being massacred in Syria."
McCain said Thursday the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was fresh evidence of "a belief in the Middle East that the United States is withdrawing" from the world.
He also said the initial American embassy response to unrest in Libya was "a very weak statement." McCain wouldn't comment on whether Mitt Romney was wrong to criticize Obama so quickly in the wake of the attack.
McCain insisted the United States must remain aggressively engaged in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East, despite the deaths of four American diplomats killed in the embassy attacks Tuesday.
At the same time, he also urged the Obama administration to strengthen its ties with Israel, saying both countries should have the same policies in dealing with Iran's nuclear development program.
"I would make sure that the Iranians knew and the world knew that Israel and the United States have the same deadlines," McCain said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," adding that sanctions aimed at stopping Iran's move toward producing a nuclear weapon "have not worked."
"It's a very tense time between the United States and Israel when we need togetherness more than ever before," he said.
McCain also stressed the importance of strengthening the U.S. commitment in the Middle East, saying the worse thing the country could do would be to withdraw from trying to help struggling democracies in Libya and elsewhere in the region.
"The last thing Chris Stevens would want is for America to withdraw from Libya," McCain said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," referring to the American ambassador who was killed in the assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
"They are struggling with the institution of democracy and we need to help them," McCain said, adding that the Libyans "don't need money" because of their oil wealth but an ally as they seek to build a new nation and government.
McCain also dismissed calls from some U.S. lawmakers, many in his own party, to withdraw U.S. aid from Egypt in response to the attacks on the American embassy in Cairo.
McCain acknowledged that the late response of the Egyptian army to help break up the mob outside the embassy on Tuesday "was an unacceptable lapse" on the part of President Mohammed Morsi. But he said it would be a mistake to "walk away" from Egypt, which he called "the heart and soul of the Arab world."
McCain said he understands the frustration on the part lawmakers who are genuinely concerned about the impact of foreign aid on the U.S. budget. But he added, "Just to say, 'We're going to cut off aid and walk away,' we can't, we just can't."
In a interview Wednesday night with Fox News' Neil Cavuto, McCain stressed the importance of remaining engaged in the region even more strongly.
"I know this, Neil, that if it provokes us to withdraw our support for these people, to leave them on their own without our assistance and guidance, then the bad guys win," McCain told Cavuto. "Then the Islamists and the terrorists win, because then they will have driven us off the playing field."
"I think our interests in Egypt and in that part of the world are pretty significant, because if we withdraw to fortress America, some of those places could be a breeding ground for al-Qaida. And we know what al-Qaida likes to do."
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