WASHINGTON - Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said on CBS' "Face The Nation" Sunday that he will not vote to authorize U.S. military action in Syria until he sees a "plan and a strategy that this will achieve some goals."
McCain has long been a proponent of U.S. intervention in the conflict, but his comments underscore the complicated task ahead for the Obama administration as it attempts to make the case for military action in Syria to a war-weary and divided Congress.
The senator said that any U.S. strategy would have to be “more than just, ‘We’re going to launch some cruise missiles and that’s it.’”
Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry urged Congress on Saturday to authorize a military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, after evidence pointed to Assad's use of sarin gas in a chemical weapons attack on civilians that killed at least 1,400 people on Aug. 21. Kerry and Obama have both said, however, that any U.S. action would not involve American "boots on the ground."
McCain said the U.S. "needs to have a strategy and a plan. The best strategy, he added, would be to eliminate Assad's continued use of chemical weapons by threatening his removal from power. "That, I believe, has to be part of what we tell the American people," he said.
Assad has used chemical weapons "a number of times before," McCain said. And if Congress rejects the president's decision to intervene, the consequences “are really very, very serious."
McCain is headed to the White House on Monday, Labor Day, to discuss Syria with President Obama, he said. Also attending will be fellow Republican Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and other lawmakers. "Well, the president said he wanted to talk" with members of Congress, McCain said, "and I am very glad to do that."
McCain also pushed back Sunday against claims by some in his party, notably Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), that the Syrian rebel forces are primarily comprised of radical Islamists who would institute a government hostile to the United States if given the chance.
"The people who are doing the fighting and are the major force are moderates," McCain said. "And anybody who tells you anything different, come with me to Syria and I'll introduce you to them."