McCain presses White House nominee Kerry on Syrian no-fly zones

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.), told reporters on Friday that he is "disappointed" the Massachusetts Democrat has not been more vocal on the issue of a U.S.-backed no-fly zone in Syria. 

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McCain, who has been one of the most vocal proponents of U.S. intervention in the country, his dissatisfaction with Kerry's wavering support of a no-fly zone flew in the face of the lawmaker's calls for a similar zone during the uprising in Libya. 

"I think Sen. Kerry was good on Libya and I am very disappointed he has not taken a more vigorous position on Syria," McCain said.

That issue, among others, will likely take center stage when Kerry goes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sometime next year to seek confirmation as the new secretary of State. 

Kerry stood alongside McCain and other Senators in calling for a no-fly zone during the violent Libyan rebellion that ended in the overthrow of former Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi last year.

In an opinion piece penned for the Washington Post last March, Kerry argued that Washington needed " to take concrete steps ... so that we are prepared to implement a no-fly zone" to help counter Gadhafi's heavy artillery and airpower. 

"Gaddafi cannot be allowed to think that he can massacre his people with impunity. And he cannot be free to make those attacks more lethal by using his airpower," Kerry wrote at the time. 

However, he dramatically softened his stance on the use of a no-fly zone during the now 20-month long civil war between Syrian rebels and embattled president Bashar Assad. 

During a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in August, Kerry openly questioned whether a Syrian no-fly zone was "either practical or advisable." 

"I continue to believe that prudent military planning is an imperative. But I also believe that we have to be clear-eyed about that," he said in August. 

"It would be important not to repeat the mistakes of the past by thinking we can just “willy-nilly” commit some forces to a conflict without a definition or achievable objective," he added at the time. 

Most recently, NATO approved the transfer of U.S-built Patriot missile interceptors to Turkey, for deployment along the Turkish-Syrian border. 

However, Senate Armed Services Committee chief Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told The Hill the missiles would not constitute a de facto no-fly zone along the border region. 

While the no-fly zone issue in Syria could become a sticking point during Kerry's confirmation hearings, McCain and others had nothing but praise for his fellow Senator and White House nominee. 

"We have confidence in John Kerry to carry out the job," McCain said. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who spoke alongside McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) during Friday's press conference, said Kerry was a "solid choice" for Secretary of State, adding the lawmaker was "a known quantity" to those inside Washington and in the international community. 

The longtime Senator was named as the Obama administration's pick for Secretary of State during a White House ceremony on Friday. 

President Obama praised Kerry, a former Democratic presidential nominee, as the "perfect choice to guide American diplomacy in the years ahead," and heralded his service in Vietnam and the U.S. Senate.

"As chairman of the foreign relations committee, John's played a central role in every major foreign policy debate for three decades," Obama said, noting "he is not going to need a lot of on the job training."