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McCain: Obama playing 'a difficult game' in Syria

Sep. 3, 2013 at 8:32 AM ET

Video: Senator John McCain has been critical of the Obama administration’s dealing with Syria, telling TODAY that President Obama has made a difficult situation for himself by saying he would strike Syria.

Sen. John McCain said President Barack Obama is playing "a very difficult game" by calling for military intervention in Syria. 

Obama is asking Congress to authorize military action against Syria over an alleged chemical weapons attack by government forces. McCain, who met with Obama on Monday, told TODAY Tuesday he believes that action must aim to cripple Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad’s military capabilities and boost the opposition.

Obama pushes for support over Syria as McCain says inaction would be 'catastrophic'

“I think it’s a very tough call, but to do nothing, as I said, would have consequences throughout the world,’’ McCain told Savannah Guthrie. “But to do something that really doesn’t change anything, in other words some token strikes, and then some time later, Bashar Assad uses those chemical weapons again. What then? Go through the same routine?

“The President of the United States put himself in a very difficult position when he said two years ago that Bashar Assad should leave, a year ago that there was a red line on the use of chemical weapons, and now, after saying that he would launch strikes, is now referring to Congress for their approval or disapproval. It’s a very difficult game that he’s playing and the stakes are incredibly high.”

McCain said he supports intervening without drawing the United States further into the conflict.

“You provide the weapons and you take out the air power that is the distinct advantage that Bashar Assad had, you commit to no American troops on the ground, and you can reverse this,’’ McCain said. “The Free Syrian Army is viable, it’s strong and it’s moderate, and anybody who tells you anything different isn’t telling you the truth. We need to reverse the situation on the battlefield. It’s an unfair fight. Russian weapons are pouring in, Iranian weapons are pouring in. Have no doubt, this is a proxy war, and the Iranians are the ones that will gain or lose by this.”

After meeting with Obama and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) at the White House on Monday, McCain told reporters that inaction in Syria would be “catastrophic.” 

McCain will only support a resolution "that will achieve the goals that I just described," he said on TODAY. "If it doesn’t, then obviously I can’t support it.’’ 

McCain expressed concern over Congress rejecting Obama's plan.

“It still will be catastrophic if we turn down and reverse a policy that was announced by the President of the United States to the world,’’ McCain said. “An action that was going to take place is then negated; I think it does horrendous damage to the credibility of the President of the United States. If this resolution does not do what we discussed with the President of the United States yesterday — degrade Assad’s capability of delivering his weapons, including his air power, getting sufficient weapons and the right kind of weapons to the Free Syrian Army and changing the momentum on the ground in Syria from Assad’s favor to that of the Free Syrian Army, then this resolution will not have the desired effect.”


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