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McCain repeats his call for military air strikes on Assad’s Syrian regime as thousands flee to Lebanon

Published: March 6, 2012 | 7:43 am
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Republican Senator John McCain yesterday urged the U.S. to launch military airstrikes against Syrian president Bashar Assad’s regime to force him out of power.
It was a dramatic call for military intervention that went directly against the plan of action favoured by the Obama administration and its European and Arab partners.
McCain, the GOP’s senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Capitol Hill that the U.S. should arm Syrian rebels and spearhead a military effort to support them.

Senator McCain said: ‘The only realistic way to do so is with foreign air power.
‘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.’
He said the benefit of leading the military effort was that it would allow the U.S. to better empower Syrian groups.

McCain added: ‘If we stand on the sidelines, others will try to pick winners, and this will not always be to our liking or in our interest.’
He is the first U.S. senator to publicly call for a military attack on Assad’s regime.
The incendiary remarks came as American and European governments asked Russia’s newly-elected president Vladimir Putin to rethink his anti-interventionist stance on Syria.
The move from Western leaders appeared to be an increasingly desperate attempt for consensus to stop Assad’s crackdown that has killed more than 7,500 Syrians.
Thousands of Syrian civilians fled to neighboring Lebanon yesterday, fearing they would be massacred in their homes.

McCain’s direct calls for military action appeared to directly criticise Obama’s softer approach to the Syrian crisis.
The Republican senator’s proposal will likely divide American lawmakers, many of whom opposed a similar operation in Libya last year.
Even if a military strike was championed by the Obama administration and its NATO allies, the plan would divide other countries hostile to the Assad regime but unwilling to support another Western military intervention in the Muslim world.
Obama’s strategy has been to use sanctions and international diplomatic isolation to pressure Assad into handing over power as part of a political transition.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Washington planned to immediately take up the Syrian issue with Moscow.
The entreaties failed to make an immediate impression on Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov instead drew attention to a months-old Russian resolution demanding that Syria’s government and the opposition hold talks on reforms.
Lavrov said yesterday: ‘I don’t think there is a need for any new initiatives’ adding that other countries ‘shouldn’t expect one another to take any action, but sit down together and decide what steps need to be taken so that the Syrians stop shooting at each other’.

Early last month, Senator McCain called for the U.S. to explore the prospect of arming opposition forces in Syria.
Senator McCain said: ‘We should start considering options, arming the opposition. The bloodletting has got to stop.’
He had since called for arming Syria’s rebels, another step the Obama administration has been hesitant to take.


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