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McCain: White House looking for excuses not to intervene in Syria

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday accused the Obama administration of being overly cautious in analyzing intelligence about the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria, saying he feared the White House was looking for excuses not to get involved.

“I’m worried that the president and the administration will use the caveats as an excuse to not act right away or to not act at all,” he told Fox News. “The president clearly stated that it was a red line and that it couldn’t be crossed without the United States taking vigorous action.”

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The White House on Thursday said the intelligence community believes the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on its own people. However, the Obama administration cautioned that it still has to “build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts.”

In addition, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was careful to qualify his statement, saying that U.S. intelligence can say with "some degree of varying confidence" that the Syrian regime has used sarin gas on protesters and rebels.

McCain said it was clear in his view that the Syrian regime had crossed the red line and this required immediate military intervention from the U.S.

“In my view it was crossed,” he said. “Not only have our intelligence people concluded that, but as importantly, the Israelis, the British and the French have as well. Obviously we know Bashar al-Assad will do whatever is necessary to stay in power, [including] massacres of his own people.”

McCain warned that if the U.S. fails to follow through on its warning to the Syrian regime, that other rogue regimes and terrorist groups in the region would be emboldened by a perceived lack of will on behalf of the U.S. to follow through on its threats.

“If we don’t take action, the Iranians, Hezbollah, the other countries in the region will be paying close attention as to whether we react to what the president clearly stated on numerous occasions what was a red line,” he said.

The Arizona Republican added that the U.S. was perhaps unprepared for the burgeoning situation because of spending cuts that hit the military in the wake of the sequester.

“Right now I think we have plans, but I don’t believe that we have the capability to react in a very short time period,” he said. “And that’s a capability that now I think a compelling argument has been made for.”