By Meghashyam Mali - 09/09/12 01:57 PM EDT
Republican Sen. John McCainJohn McCainLots of (just) talk about 'draining the swamp' 56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? MORE (Ariz.) on Saturday blasted President Obama’s handling of the conflict in Syria saying that the administration’s policies had denied rebels seeking to oust Bashar al-Assad a “fair fight.”
McCain said Obama should do more to aid opposition forces fighting the embattled Syrian leader’s regime.
"First, voice your moral support the way Ronald Reagan did for the people behind the iron curtain. Second get them the weapons so it's a fair fight. Third establish a sanctuary or free zone where they can organize,” said the Arizona senator.
McCain said that Obama’s decision to draw a “red line” for Assad had only emboldened the Syrian strongman.
“This president unbelievably announced that if Bashar Assad used chemical weapons, he'd have crossed a red line,” said McCain. “Isn't he also telling Bashar Assad he can do anything up to that?"
For the last year and a half, anti-Assad forces have waged a violent struggle against the regime. Syrian military troops loyal to Damascus have used heavy force to suppress the uprising, resulting in mass civilian deaths and international condemnation.
Efforts to negotiate an agreement removing Assad from power have also failed.
McCain, along with fellow Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Trail 2016: Who is really winning? Graham: GOP Senate could rein in Clinton White House The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), has been a harsh critic of Obama’s performance on Syria, calling on the administration to form a “coalition of the willing” to aid the opposition to Assad.
Anti-Assad forces have pressed the United States and other international powers to provide arms but he White House has resisted calls to provide weapons out of concerns those arms could be used against American or allied troops by elements friendly to al Qaeda.