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McCain wants to arm Syrian rebels

Published time: February 20, 2012 18:04
Edited time: February 20, 2012 22:04
U.S. Senator John McCain. (Reuters / Soe Zeya Tun)

U.S. Senator John McCain. (Reuters / Soe Zeya Tun)

Two congressional conservative warhawks have spoken up about how to handle the uprising in Syria, and their solution would involve arming the rebel forces with American weapons. How that would happen, however, is still up for debate.

American Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham proposed ways of handling the issue of Syria this week during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan. As Syria looks more and more like a country drawn into a civil war, both McCain and Graham suggest that it's time for the United States to provide assistance to one of the sides.

McCain said from Kabul that he hopes to arm the Syrian rebels, but does not think that direct intervention from the United States is necessary.

“I believe there are ways to get weapons to the opposition without direct United States involvement,” said McCain.

“People that are being massacred deserve to have the ability to defend themselves,” added McCain, who insists that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s own army is relying on firepower being provided by allied nations. To counter the government, McCain said that that the US needs to lend a helping hand by the way of weaponry, although Senator McCain did not explain how he intended to put American machinery into the hands of rebel forces without going directly through the US government.

As the rest of the world continues to question the events in Syria, McCain’s remark is made as one of the first from a leading lawmaker concerning what to do with the worsening situation in Syria. Unless the US takes the proper path in equipping the rebel forces in a way that cooperated with American policy, it could create problems not just for Assad, but for Washington as well.

Last year, US President Barack Obama’s bypassing of the House and Senate to send military forces over the skies of Libya came with congressional opposition after some lawmakers alleged that the commander-in-chief had ignored constitutional provisions that would have demanded he seek approval from Capitol Hill first. Despite jabs that he had broken American law, President Obama insisted that the hostilities overseas did not amount to anything that necessitated the legal definition of a war, and therefore he was warranted in sending planes to Libyan airspace.

"I think it is very important for us to try to resolve this without recourse to outside military intervention. I think that's possible," President Obama said to NBC earlier this month. "The Assad regime is feeling the noose tightening around them. This is not going to be a matter of if, it's going to be a matter of when."

The Executive Branch has not made any moves to aid the rebel forces yet, but the latest statements from McCain and Graham could quickly put a response effort in motion.

“So I am not only not opposed, but I am in favor of weapons being obtained by the opposition,” said McCain.

Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) has also encouraged the US to arm Syrian rebels, insisting that “the bloodshed must be stopped.” Obama responded himself by calling Assad’s attack on his own people “inexcusable.”

In his own offering from Kabul, Sen. Graham suggested that an end to the bloodshed could come overseas if the US or other nations find a way to separate Syria from Iran, who is also at odds with the US.

Even though high-ranking hawks in the American establishment portray their concerns of the situation in Syria as a humanitarian matter, Sen. Graham's words shed light on real reasoning behind so close interest in the affairs of the Middle Eastern country.

“Breaking Syria apart from Iran could be as important to containing a nuclear Iran as sanctions,” Graham said, reports the New York Times. “If the Syrian regime is replaced with another form of government that doesn’t tie its future to the Iranians, the world is a better place.”

The US is currently investigation a nuclear program being procured by Iran that American allies Israel fears will put a dangerous warhead in the hands of Tehran. Given the ties between Iran and Syria, Graham seems concerned that the continuing of a nuclear program in Iran would not just be detrimental to the future of Israel, but its allies Syria.