McCain, Graham push Trump for 'greater military action' in Syria
© Greg Nash

GOP Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainLessons of the Kamala Harris campaign Overnight Defense: Trump clashes with Macron at NATO summit | House impeachment report says Trump abused power | Top Dem scolds military leaders on Trump intervention in war crimes cases Top Armed Services Democrat scolds military leaders on Trump's intervention in war crimes cases MORE (Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties GOP senator blocks Armenian genocide resolution Hannity slams Stern for Clinton interview: 'Not the guy I grew up listening to' MORE (S.C.) are urging President Trump to step up U.S. military activity against Syrian President Bashar Assad in the wake of last week's airstrike. 

"As part of a broader strategy, we urge the President to take greater military action to achieve our objectives, including grounding the Syrian air force and establishing safe havens inside Syria to protect Syrians," the two senators said in a joint statement on Tuesday. 
 
They added that "there will never be a diplomatic solution as long as Assad dominates the battlefield."
 
Defense Secretary James Mattis signaled Tuesday that the airstrike was not an indication that the United States was preparing to ramp up its activities, while also warning Assad against carrying out a chemical attack similar to the one his administration launched last Tuesday. 
 
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Mattis told reporters that Thursday's airstrike was in response to Syria breaking its 2013 pledge to remove its chemical weapons and a United Nations Security Council strategy that outlined the plan. 
 
"The reason for the strike was that alone," he said. "It was not a harbinger of some change in our military campaign." 
 
He added that the strike "was not a statement that we could enter full fledged, full bore into the most complex civil war probably raging on the planet at this time." 
 
The Trump administration carried out an airstrike against an airbase in Syria last week in response to a chemical gas attack that U.S. officials and lawmakers have linked to Assad, according to The New York Times
 
GOP lawmakers have split over what they think Trump's next steps should be in Syria. 
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill Overnight Health Care — Presented by Johnson & Johnson – House progressives may try to block vote on Pelosi drug bill | McConnell, Grassley at odds over Trump-backed drug pricing bill | Lawmakers close to deal on surprise medical bills GOP senators request interview with former DNC contractor to probe possible Ukraine ties MORE (R-Ky.) and Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerRNC says ex-Trump ambassador nominee's efforts 'to link future contributions to an official action' were 'inappropriate' Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing MORE (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, both echoed Mattis, telling reporters last week that they believed the strike was a response only to the chemical attack. 
 
But Graham and McCain have vocally pressed the Trump administration to step up military activities aimed at Assad since late last week. 
 
They added on Tuesday that the Trump administration needs to lay out a strategy that "secures U.S. and allied interests in Syria" including defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and ending the country's years-long civil war. 
 
"Our strategy cannot presume to separate the fight against [ISIS] from the Syrian people's fight against the Assad regime. They are inextricably connected," they said. 
 
The two argued that if Assad is allowed to continue "to slaughter his own people, it will be impossible to destroy the radical terrorist groups that occupy Syria and the region, and the war will never end."