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Middle east

McCain steps up criticism of Obama over Syria

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-06-03

After meetings with Syrian rebels last week, US Senator John McCain has intensified his criticism of President Obama’s handling of the Syria crisis, calling for a no-fly zone, arming of rebels, and establishment of protected areas for refugees.

US Senator John McCain, Barack Obama’s 2008 rival for the White House, back from a secret visit to Syria last week, took to the Sunday TV talk shows to slam the president on what he portrayed as his inaction on the issue.

“Remember all this talk we’ve heard for the last year or two – it’s inevitable that Bashar Assad will fall?” McCain, a Republican from Arizona, asked during his interview on CBS News programme “Face the Nation”. “Well, I think we can’t make that statement today.”

McCain, one of the most outspoken US politicians to press for a US military intervention to put an end to the Syrian civil war, crossed the border near Kilis, Turkey, last Monday, and held a two-hour meeting with anti-Assad rebel leaders.

He was the first US Senator to visit Syria since the civil war erupted over two years ago.

Discussing what he described as an increasingly dire situation, McCain, a senior member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees, renewed his calls for the implementation of a no-fly zone, as well as the direct arming of rebels and the establishment of protected areas for rebels and refugees.

‘Deeply disappointed in Obama’

Stopping off in Jordan after his time in Syria, McCain sat down with FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman on May 31, telling him unequivocally: “Right now, Assad is winning.”

He went on to blame Obama for what he suggested was a lack of leadership and a wrong-headed approach on the Syria situation. “I have been deeply disappointed in the Obama administration standing by and watching 80,000 thousand people being massacred,” he told Perelman.

Despite efforts by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to push for a more active US role in arming Syrian rebels, the Obama administration has indeed remained reluctant to wade too deeply into a complex Mideast conflict, so far offering anti-Assad forces only non-lethal aid.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry has been working to organise a peace summit in Geneva between Assad and opposition leaders, though no date has been specified.

But McCain expressed scepticism as to whether Assad would be willing to engage in such talks. “Anybody that believes that Bashar al-Assad is going to go to a conference in Geneva when he is prevailing on the battlefield, it’s just ludicrous to assume that,” McCain said Sunday on “Face the Nation”.

The two years of violence in Syria have resulted in more than 70,000 deaths, according to UN estimates.

Though McCain has expressed support for some of Obama’s initiatives, such as his effort to push immigration reform, he has emerged as a particularly vocal critic of the president’s foreign policy.

Aside from the Syria issue, McCain has criticised the administration’s handling of the consulate attack in Benghazi last September, accusing the White House of a “wilful removal of information” to protect its image.

Date created : 2013-06-03

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