Policy & Strategy

McCain, Graham: Syria deal an ‘act of weakness’ by White House

President Obama’s pursuit of a Syrian disarmament deal with Russia is an “act of provocative weakness” by the White House, opening the door to further aggression by Iran and other U.S. adversaries, according to two Senate Republicans.

The deal “requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley, and the Obama Administration is being led into it” by Moscow and Damascus, GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) said Saturday.

The plan to force Syria to shift control of its chemical weapons to international control shows the regime “is now our negotiating partner” rather than a regional security threat in the Mideast, they said in a joint statement. 

{mosads}”That is morally and strategically indefensible,” according to McCain and Graham. 

“It as an act of provocative weakness on America’s part [and] we cannot imagine a worse signal to send to Iran” and other American adversaries, via the disarmament deal. 

Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov finalized the Syria deal during a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on Saturday. 

Syrian President Bashar Assad will be required to hand over his chemical weapons stockpiles to United Nations oversight, under the terms of the deal. 

If the Assad regime refuses to comply, U.S. and allied forces may take military action against Syria under mandate by the U.N. Security Council. 

On Saturday, President Obama praised the pact as a “positive step” toward reining in Assad’s chemical weapons capability. 

“We now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives through diplomacy,” the President said, regarding the U.S.-Russia deal. 

The deal also indefinitely delays planned U.S. strikes against Syria, in retaliation for alleged chemical attacks against rebel forces in the country. 

That said, “if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act,” Obama added. 

But Russia’s alliance with Syria, along with its key position on the U.N. Security Council, makes it impossible for Washington to take action against Assad if he does not hand over his chemical arsenal. 

Moscow remains adamantly opposed to U.S. military intervention in Syria, repeatedly blocking efforts American-led in the U.N. to rein in the Assad regime during the ongoing civil war in the country. 

Without the threat of military action, “this framework agreement is meaningless,” the Senators said. 

“Assad will use the months and months afforded to him to delay and deceive the world” on his intentions to disarm his forces, the added. 

Government forces are already reportedly moving portions of its chemical weapon stocks to Lebanon and Iraq, in an attempt to evade international oversight, according to rebel leaders in Syria. 

That said, McCain and Graham reiterated the need for Washington to take a greater role in arming and equipping opposition forces in Syria, who have been fighting to topple the Assad regime for over two years. 

“The only way this underlying conflict can be brought to a decent end is by significantly increasing our support to moderate opposition forces in Syria,” they said. 

U.S. and allied forces must work with Syria’s rebels to “change the momentum on the battlefield, and thereby create real conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict,” the lawmakers added. 

Washington has begun directly supplying weapons and equipment to the rebels. 

The weapon supplies, consisting mostly of small arms, ammunition and anti-tank weapons, are being coordinated by the CIA and limited to vetted portions of Syria’s rebels. 

Obama approved the weapons program back in July, giving the CIA the green light to begin arming Syrian rebels from clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan, according to reports at the time. 

Tags John Kerry John McCain Lindsey Graham

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