John McCain: U.S. should bomb Syria

Arizona Republican John McCain on Monday became the first senator to call for  U.S.-led air strikes to stop the slaughter of unarmed civilians being carried  out by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“Providing military assistance to the Free Syrian Army and other opposition  groups is necessary, but at this late hour, that alone will not be sufficient to  stop the slaughter and save innocent lives. The only realistic way to do so is  with foreign airpower,” McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and the top Republican on  the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a speech on the Senate floor.

“Therefore, at the request of [opposition forces], the United  States should lead an international effort to protect key population centers in  Syria, especially in the north, through airstrikes on Assad’s forces.”

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Sen.  Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two of McCain’s closest allies on foreign policy,  issued a statement Monday night saying they backed McCain’s position toward  Syria.

An estimated 7,500 Syrians have been killed by Assad’s military during the  past year, including hundreds in the city of Homs which has been targeted by  tank and artillery attacks.

McCain, the GOP presidential nominee in 2008, said the goal of the U.S. air  strikes should be to “establish and defend safe havens” in Syria where  opposition forces can organize and plot political and military attacks against  Assad. The international community could also deliver humanitarian and military  assistance to these safe zones, including food, water, weapons and training.

“Increasingly, the question for U.S. policy is not whether foreign forces  will intervene militarily in Syria. We can be confident that Syria’s neighbors  will do so eventually, if they have not already. Some kind of intervention will  happen, with us or without us,” McCain said. “So the real question for U.S.  policy is whether we will participate in this next phase of the conflict in  Syria, and thereby increase our ability to shape an outcome that is beneficial  to the Syrian people, and to us.

“I believe we must.”

So far, the Obama administration has opposed military intervention in Syria,  believing that tougher economic sanctions and greater diplomatic pressure will  drive Assad from power.

But McCain said the U.S. has little to show after a year of diplomatic  efforts, which have failed to halt what the senator called Assad’s “killing  spree.” McCain drew comparisons between Syria and Libya, where NATO forces  conducted air strikes against the armed forces of dictator Muammar Qadhafi.

“The kinds of mass atrocities that NATO intervened in Libya to prevent in  Benghazi are now a reality in Homs,” McCain said. “Indeed, Syria today is the  scene of some of the worst state-sponsored violence since Milosevic’s war crimes  in the Balkans, or Russia’s annihilation of the Chechen city of Grozny.”


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