‘Crushing news’: McCain, Graham furious over Syria policy change
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the future of President Bashar Assad “will be decided by the Syrian people.” Earlier in the day, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington’s “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”
“There is a political reality that we have to accept in terms of where we are right now,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Friday, explaining that the current administration “lost a lot of opportunity the last administration had with respect to Assad.”
“We believe that there’s a need to de-escalate violence and to have a political process through which Syrians will decide their own political future, consistent with the principles that have been enshrined in the UN Security Council Resolution 2254,” Spicer added.
Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), said he was “deeply disturbed” by Haley and Tillerson’s pronouncements, adding that their “suggestion that Assad can stay in power appears to be just as devoid of strategy as President Obama's pronouncements that ‘Assad must go’.”
Syrian people can’t decide the future of their country “when they are being slaughtered by Assad's barrel bombs, Putin's aircraft, and Iran's terrorist proxies,”McCain said in a statement.
He also said a “Faustian bargain with Assad and Putin” would betray US allies and partners and “empower ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other radical Islamist terrorists as the only alternative to the dictator that the Syrian people have fought for six years to remove.”
Fellow committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) joined McCain in denouncing the policy shift, calling it “crushing news to the Syrian opposition and to our allies throughout the Middle East.”
“I fear it is a grave mistake,” Graham said, adding that the Syrian people want Assad gone and that leaving him in power would be “a great reward for Russia and Iran.”
McCain and Graham have been vocal critics of President Donald Trump throughout the 2016 campaign, and have since become two of the most prominently featured Republicans in the mainstream US media. Both have a reputation for being foreign policy hawks, championing US military interventions from the Balkans and Ukraine to the Middle East.
When McCain ran for president in 2008, a recording emerged of him singing “Bomb, bomb Iran” to a tune of a 1960s pop song. Earlier this month, he accused Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) of “working for Vladimir Putin,” for expressing reservations about NATO’s expansion to Montenegro. Most recently, he called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un a “crazy fat kid.”