McCain: Assad now holds ‘upper hand’

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said expectations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would negotiate a diplomatic solution to the country’s civil war at an upcoming summit are “ludicrous,” and warned that the strong man now held the “upper hand” in that nation’s three-year civil.

“Anyone that believes that Bashar Assad is going to go to a conference in Geneva when he is prevailing on the battlefield, it's just ludicrous to assume that,” said McCain on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.


McCain’s comments come one week after the Arizona senator took a secret trip into Syria to meet with opposition leaders who have waged a struggle to depose Assad from power.

McCain has been a vocal proponent for increased aid to the rebel forces, including weaponry, but has faced opposition from the administration.

The White House has pushed for a diplomatic solution amid fears that lethal assistance could fall into the hands of Islamist or anti-Western elements.  The State Department is pushing rebel leaders to speak with the Assad regime at an upcoming summit in Geneva.

McCain said that his meeting with opposition leaders had convinced him they would be reliable allies and warned that failing to aid them would lead to a humanitarian crisis.

“They're very dedicated. They are not al Qaeda, they are not extremists,” the senator said.

McCain said he had spoken to Secretary of State John Kerry about his trip, but had not yet spoken to the president. 

“Hopefully we’ll go to the floor, but the administration knows this,” he said. “They have the same information I have, it’s a slaughter and the refugee camps are full.”

McCain has opposed putting U.S. troops on the ground but urged establishing a no-fly zone over Syrian airspace to aid the rebels.

“We need to give them a no-fly zone,” argued McCain. “The Israelis have shown us we can take out their facilities from a distance, that we don't have to risk our pilots. We can crater their runways, we can take out their air assets, we can provide them with a safe zone so that the Syrian opposition council outside Syria can come into Syria and coordinate.”