Sen. John McCainJohn McCainDrug importation won't save dollars or lives Dem rep Charlie Crist files for divorce Why the GOP cannot sweep its Milo scandal under the rug MORE (R-Ariz.) said Thursday the Obama administration is not carrying out more airstrikes against Islamic militants inside Syria because it is instead “playing footsie” with Iran.
“There are reports that one of the reasons why we are not attacking [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad is because we are trying to look at some kind of arrangements with the Iranians,” the top Republican the on Senate Armed Services Committee said in an interview with MSNBC, without citing examples.
The administration is on its heels after a report that the president sent a secret letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei arguing that Washington and Tehran had a shared interest in fighting ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest would neither confirm nor deny the missive had been sent.
"I'm not in a position to discuss private correspondence between the president and any world leader," he said.
The letter could mark a reversal in White House policy that the U.S. would not make concessions in ongoing nuclear talks with Iran for Tehran’s help in the ISIS fight.
McCain said that, “on the nuclear issue, we have already given away the store by allowing them to the right to enrich and not putting in check both the development of warheads and the means to deliver them.”
He called the talks a “misguided effort to somehow accommodate and get better relations with a country that is spreading disorder and unrest throughout the region.”
However, McCain said he would work with other Senate lawmakers to craft a new authorization for the use of military force against ISIS, something the president asked for on Wednesday during a post-election news conference.
“The last authorization specifically mentioned the 9/11 attacks and those responsible for it. So it should be updated. But I want to do it very carefully,” McCain said. “We'll sit down and try and work this out. It is necessary.”
The five-term lawmaker went on to lambaste the administration’s policy toward Yemen.
“Yemen, by the way, that is our enemy. They are not our friend. They are our enemy,” he said. “And we are treating them as somebody that we can continue to do business with.”
He then skewered the White House over its handling of the 2009 “Green Movement” in Iran and said Georgia was “swinging more pro-Russian” after its defense minister was sacked.
As for Syria, McCain said that every time the U.S.-led coalition strikes ISIS fighters, the Assad regime steps up its attacks on rebel forces inside the country.
“So this is a foreign policy that is off the rails,” according to McCain.