Republican Senator John McCain may have applauded President Donald Trump’s decision to send 59 cruise missiles against Syria last Thursday, but he says the administration is “partially to blame” for Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
McCain was on “Face the Nation” Sunday to discuss the next steps in dealing with Syria when he said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was emboldened by the Trump administration’s apparent “hands off” policy towards Syria after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that Syrians should decide what should to be done with Assad, not the U.S. government.
“I think it probably was partially to blame,” McCain said. “And Secretary Tillerson basically saying the same thing after kind of contradicting himself and then saying the same thing argues vigorously for a plan and a strategy. As I said again, taking this action I support and was important.”
McCain also placed himself in opposition to Tillerson’s policy of the U.S. focusing on the defeat of ISIS before it can concentrate on Assad’s reprehensible behavior or a regime change in Syria. McCain called ISIS and Assad “totally connected” issues.
McCain was responding to Tillerson’s suggestions that last week’s missile strike on Syria was the limit to military action against the Assad regime at the present.
“Well, I think what the president did was an excellent first step, and it was a reversal of the last eight years,” McCain said. “And I think it was important. But it’s now vitally important we develop a strategy, we put that strategy in motion, and we bring about peace in the region. And that obviously means that there has to be a cessation of these war crimes.”
McCain argued that a “one-time deal” to punish the use of chemical weapons “ignores the enormity of the problem.”
The senator noted that only a “small percentage of the people who have been slaughtered in Syria have been slaughtered by chemical weapons. “It’s been done by barrel bombs and indiscriminate killing and all the other war crimes that have been committed,” McCain said.
He suggested the missile strike was only a good start because it didn’t stop the Syrians from using the airbase that was the target of U.S. cruise missiles just hours after the attack
“But the signal that they’re able to fly almost right away out of the same facility indicates that I don’t think we did as thorough enough job, which would have been cratering the runways,” McCain said. “And somebody will say, ‘Well, then they can fill in the runways.’ Yeah, and we can crater them again too.”