Influential US Senator Calls for Air Strikes on Syria

Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill, March 5, 2012.
Senator John McCain talks to reporters on Capitol Hill, March 5, 2012.
Michael Bowman

An influential U.S. senator is calling for U.S.-led military intervention in Syria to stem the slaughter of civilians, assist rebels, and hasten the downfall of President Bashar al-Assad. Republican John McCain of Arizona, who was President Barack Obama’s opponent in the 2008 election, made an impassioned plea for air strikes in Syria, with or without U.N. authorization.

Senator McCain condemned the continuing bloodshed in Syria, and blasted the Obama administration’s assertion that President Assad’s departure from power is inevitable.

“Nothing in this world is predetermined, and claims about the inevitability of events can often be a convenient way to abdicate responsibility," said McCain. "But even if we do assume that Assad will ultimately fall, that may still take a really long time.”

McCain said the Syrian government serves as a “forward operating base” of Iran and a direct backer of international terrorism. He said President Assad has Syrian blood on his hands, as well as that of U.S. servicemen killed in Iraq by foreign infiltrators who entered the country through Syria.

The senator argued that current U.S. policy is inadequate and that a new, more aggressive policy is needed. He said military intervention is consistent with the Obama administration’s stated policy of preventing mass atrocities.

“The United States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in Syria, especially in the north, through air strikes on Assad’s forces," he said. "To be clear, this will require the United States to suppress enemy air defenses in at least part of the country.”

Last month, the Obama administration said it still supports a political resolution of the crisis. But it said the Assad government's assault on the Syrian people is "heinous and unforgivable" and will require the United States to evaluate its approach "as time goes on." State Department officials have confidently predicted Mr. Assad’s ouster, but have said a transition in Syria could be long and difficult.

Senator McCain said the United States should partner with allies in the Arab world as well as NATO to establish safe havens in Syria for anti-Assad forces as well as for the delivery of humanitarian and military supplies.

He noted that U.N. action toward Syria has been stymied by Russia and China, but he argued that the United Nations need not give its blessing for a military campaign to go forward.

“Let us not forget: NATO took military action to save Kosovo in 1999 without formal U.N. authorization," said McCain. "There is no reason why the Arab League or NATO or a leading coalition within the ‘Friends of Syria’ contact group could not provide a similar international mandate for military measures to save Syria today.”

McCain acknowledged that military intervention in Syria would entail significant risks. But he argued there are no perfect options when it comes to dealing with President Assad, only the opportunity to serve long-range U.S. interests by siding with Syrian government opponents.

Other senators have called for arming Syrian rebels, but so far have stopped short of calling for air strikes.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs