Sen. Graham presses for no-fly zone to ‘neutralize’ Assad

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) on Sunday pressed for more military aid to Syria's rebels, saying a no-fly zone would be needed to help them topple Bashar al-Assad.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Graham said that just giving automatic rifles such as AK-47s to the rebels will not “neutralize” Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad's battlefield advantage.

“I think our goal should be to balance the military power,” he said. “We need to create a no-fly zone.”

The White House this week announced its intention to arm some of the rebels fighting against Assad, citing conclusive evidence the Syrian leader had used poison gas on his own people, crossing a U.S. red line.

Graham, who has been on the forefront of those demanding expanded involvement in Syria, said President Obama had waited too long to offer assistance. He warned that Assad’s recent battlefield gains might not be reversible. 

Graham said a year ago Assad was diplomatically isolated and losing on the battlefield, but now is relying on strong support from Russia and the terrorist group Hezbollah.

“It seems to be not being Bush is our foreign policy,” Graham said, accusing Obama of lacking a coherent global approach. 

“I don't understand it. Whatever it is, it's not working,” he said. 

Graham said the U.S. must act quickly to bolster pro-Western elements in the opposition because Israel is becoming isolated and Jordan could fall to extremist groups as the civil war drags on and radicalizes the Syrian population. 

“The whole region about to blow,” he said, calling it a “powder keg.”

Graham claimed there is “more bipartisan support” in the Senate for intervention than there was 6 months ago. 

His calls for a no-fly zone were echoed by many of his colleagues. 

Appearing on the same program, Senate Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said that the military situation has to be evaluated almost daily. 

“A no fly-zone may have to be the ultimate step that has to be taken,” he said. 

Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said that at this point he considering options including a no-fly zone.

“I'm open to all options,” he said. 

But he cautioned that he is concerned about the U.S. involvement escalating into a new war.

“The no-fly zone and other options may lead to the slippery slope that others have talked about,” he said. 

Graham said he agrees there should be limits and that “boots on the ground” is not an appropriate action for the U.S. to take.