McCain: Missile strikes on Syria an ‘excellent first step’

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's Morning Report — Recession fears climb and markets dive — now what? Trump makes rare trip to Clinton state, hoping to win back New Hampshire Graham promises ObamaCare repeal if Trump, Republicans win in 2020 MORE (R-Ariz.) said in an interview broadcast Sunday that President Trump’s missile strikes on a Syrian airfield in response to a deadly chemical attack were an “excellent first step,” but warned that the administration “better follow it up.”

“I think what the president did was an excellent first step. And it was a reversal of the last eight years,” McCain, a frequent Trump critic, told CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “But it’s now vitally important that we develop a strategy, we put that strategy in motion and we bring about peace in the region.

“And that obviously means that there has to be a cessation of these war crimes. Using chemical weapons is a war crime, but starving thousands of people in prisons is also. Dropping barrel bombs which indiscriminately kill innocent civilians, precision strikes done by Russians on hospitals in Aleppo are war crimes as well,” he added.

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McCain also said he did agree with comments from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson earlier on the show that defeating ISIS should be the "first priority" in Syria.

“We will take Mosul, we will take Raqqa and we’d better have strategies as to how to handle those places,” McCain said, referring to ISIS strongholds.

“But they’re not disconnected from Bashar Assad and the war crimes that have been taking place. To a large degree, Bashar Assad by polarizing the Syrian people has also given rise to ISIS and al Qaeda. They are both connected and I believe the United States of American can address both at the same time,” he added, referring to the Syrian President.

"We can walk and chew gum. We have the capability to do both.”

McCain said a negotiated settlement would only happen if the Assad regime finds it is “not in their interest to continue what they’ve been successful at for over eight years."

“That’s why I thought symbolically and psychologically the president’s action was very important, but now we’d better follow it up."