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McCain: Strategy Needed Before Syria Strikes Can be Approved

By Sandy Fitzgerald   |   Sunday, 01 Sep 2013 01:08 PM

Congress and the American people do not have the information they need to decide whether the United States should move forward with military actions against Syria's Bashar Assad's regime, Sen. John McCain said Sunday.

"A case needs to be made, and I would suggest that case be made to the American people as well," the Arizona Republican said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

McCain said the American people and Congress "really haven't had the information I think they need to make a decision of this magnitude to move forward."

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McCain and fellow Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have been adamant about not approving military action that does not include a strategy for helping opposition forces in a meaningful way in Syria -- "rather than just 'we're going to launch some cruises' and that's it," McCain said.

McCain said the Syrian leader has used chemical weapons "a number of times before," and the only thing that will stop that threat is to remove him from power."

McCain said Congress could override Obama's decision, and "the consequences of the Congress of the United States overriding a decision of the president of the United States of this magnitude are really very, very serious. And already we're sending a bad signal to Iran, to North Korea, to Bashar al-Assad."

McCain said the Syrian opposition's "morale has been devastated" by Obama's plan to wait for Congress, and "Bashar and his people are euphoric. The Iranians are happy."

The president's indecision is "problematic," McCain said.

"He didn't say he [drew] a red line and by the way, 'I'm going to have to seek the approval of Congress.' He said it was a red line and the United States of America would act. And that is a big difference," McCain said.

The senator said Obama could have acted as other presidents, like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, to take military action, but this time there have been enough leaks that the Syrians know how many U.S. ships and missiles are awaiting action.

"I think this has serious consequences as far as steadfastness and purpose of this administration," said McCain.

But McCain does not expect Assad to negotiate, because he has too much power and is receiving arms from Iran, Russia, and Hezbollah.

"We haven't given the Free Syria Army a single weapon," he said. "This is shameful. The only thing we've given these brave people dying by the droves are MREs that about to expire? That's the kind of assistance?"

Secretary of State John Kerry said on the CBS show that Obama "clearly has a sufficient case" to present that Assad engaged in crimes against humanity.

"I think the president realized in consultations with Congress that people wanted to weigh in, and he believed after thinking, that the United States of America is much stronger when we act in concert," said Kerry. "Rather than have the debate after an attack, the president felt it was much more important for us to act with unity of purpose and in a concerted way."

Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia both said Sunday they are glad to have the chance to debate the issue in Congress.

Kaine said on CBS that he is confident Congress will back up the principle that the use of chemical weapons violates international law, and will agree to military strikes to punish Syria's government.

Chambliss said it is important for Congress to discuss any military strikes.

"My constituents are war weary," said Chambliss. "They don't want to see us get involved in this."

Kaine agreed that his state, with all its connections to the military, has "a sense of fatigue and even a sense of skepticism about assertions with regard to presence of weapons of mass destruction."

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