President Barack Obama's retreat in the Middle East has allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to order airstrikes
on targets in Syria to gain a foothold in the Middle East while propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "who has killed at least 250,000 of his own citizens" with barrel bombing, veteran Sen. John McCain said Wednesday.
"Over the past six and a half years, President Obama has sounded retreat over the Middle East," the Arizona Republican said on the Senate floor.
One year ago, he continued, Obama said the nation's strategy was to destroy ISIS, but still, a government report issued this week shows some 28,000 Europeans and Asians have joined to fight with ISIS.
Further, he pointed out that Mosul and Ramadi remain in the hands of ISIS, and a year later, after Obama's speech, "there is no strategy or success, and in fact, we now see the result of this failure, which is a flood of refugees out of Syria and Iraq because they have given up hope of ever returning to their homeland."
"Our hearts go out to those who are victims and have had to flee their homeland and receive these refugees," said McCain. "It breaks our heart when we see a baby's body washed up on the beach. It didn't have to happen."
When Obama said the nation was drawing a "red line" in Syria and Assad then ordered attacks, it had "profound effect on the Middle East, including Sunni and Arab states," said McCain, pointing out that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the secretary of defense pushed for the United States to help arm the Free Syrian Army, but that was turned down.
"This was a series of decisions or non-decisions which has led to the situation we see today, where Vladimir Putin may have inserted Russia into the Middle East in a way that Russia has not enjoyed since 1973, when the Russians were thrown out of Egypt," said McCain. "He is still on course to repeat this nightmare by withdrawing nearly all troops from Afghanistan."
In that country, the Taliban has captured the strategic city of Kunduz, said McCain, "and that is terrible in the respect hat Kunduz is in the northern part of the state where we thought it was stable."
And in Syria, said McCain, "the United States stood by as Bashar al-Assad's war on the Syrian people is going on and on and on. It is this slaughter that has been the single greatest contributor to the rise and continued successful of ISIS."
Further, he maintained, it was Assad who "gave birth to ISIS," and while Obama has said for years Assad must go, he's done nothing to make that outcome occur.
"It is not that we have not done nothing, but what it is is we have not done anything that could reverse the trend and further the goal that the president articulated that we would degrade and destroy ISIL," said McCain. "In short, this administration confused our friends, mistaken our enemies and into the wreckage of this administration's Middle East policy has now stepped Vladimir Putin."
And as in Ukraine, said McCain, Putin is seeing the administration's inaction and caution as weakness.
"Over the past few weeks, Vladimir Putin has been engaged in a significant military buildup in western Syria, deploying strike aircraft and by the way, he is deploying aircraft that is air-to-air, not air-to-ground," said McCain. "ISIS has no Air Force, my friends."
Russia's actions are not lost on the Middle East, he continued. Russians carried out their first airstrikes, "and initial reports are they are hitting targets which are not controlled by ISIL."
"If the White House is confused about Putin's intentions and plans in Syria, then the United States is in even worse [shape] than many feared because it is not hard to discern what Vladimir Putin wants," he said. "From Russia's military build-up in Syria to their announced intelligence coalition with Syria, Iran and Iraq. Remember, Iraq is the country where we lost thousands of American lives, and now the Iraq government is announcing support for Syria and Iran. Amazing."
Meanwhile, he insisted, Russia and Iran "don't have any interest in resolving the Syrian conflict. They seek only to keep the murderous Assad regime in power. Russia's intervention in Syria will prolong and complicate this war."
And throughout the world, McCain said, the "absence of American leadership" is visible, not only in Syria.
"This is a bad day," he said. "It is a time for American leadership and time that President Obama woke up to the realities in the world and reassert American leadership. That does not mean we will send thousands of ground troops back into Iraq or Syria."
He continued that he hopes that the United States has not pulled out and conceded power to Putin.
"What we should be saying to Vladimir Putin is that you fly, but we fly anywhere we want to, when and how we want to, and you better stay out of the way," said McCain. "I hope that the American people understand how serious this is. And that this rogue dictator named Vladimir Putin, who is a thug and a bully, can only understand a steadfast and strong American policy that brings America's strength back to bear."
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