McCain Slams 'Shameful' U.S. Inaction on Syria
Senator John McCain accused President Barack Obama and his administration on Sunday of leading a "shameful and disgraceful" U.S. response to the bloodshed in Syria.
"The fact is, the United States has played no leadership role," the influential senator and former Republican presidential candidate told CBS television, referring to efforts to halt the brutal 16-month crackdown.
"Now 14,000 people have been massacred by Bashar Assad. The United States of America, its performance so far has been shameful and disgraceful."
McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a leading voice in Congress on military and security matters, has argued for months that Washington should deliver weapons to aid rebel forces in Syria seeking to oust Assad.
Obama has demanded that Assad stand down and offered logistical support to the opposition, but his administration -- which is seeking to wind down a decade of war in Afghanistan after ending the controversial Iraq mission -- has ruled out using force in Syria.
International efforts to squeeze by isolating Assad and seeking sanctions against his regime have been frustrated by Russian and Chinese opposition at the U.N. Security Council.
"It is shameful, the total lack of leadership that the United States has displayed for the last 14 months," McCain said. "The president of the United States should be speaking out for the people of Syria."
McCain renewed his call for military aid as former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan, an international envoy on the Syria crisis, conceded Sunday that his efforts so far have failed to end nearly 16 months of bloodshed.
"We should get arms to them so that we can balance the forces," he said. "It is not a fair fight. Russian arms are pouring in, Iranians are on the ground, and people are being massacred, tortured, raped, and murdered as a matter of policy by Bashar Assad."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that time was running out for Assad and his regime and it needed to start a political transition to save the country from a "catastrophic assault".
"It should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime their days are numbered," Clinton told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo.
Clinton was speaking after attending talks in Paris on Friday in which countries pledged to increase pressure on Assad to step down by seeking a tough U.N. resolution backed by a threat of sanctions.
But McCain urged faster more concrete action.
"We need to establish a sanctuary so that they can organize, they can resist, and the can prevail," he said.
"I believe that someday he, Bashar Assad will go, my question is to the secretary of state and the president of the United States is, how many more have to die before we take action to help these people with other nations?"
Kofi Annan, the U.N. and Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis, arrived in Damascus Sunday for talks with Assad but, by his own admission, his peace plan is failing to stop the bloodshed.
More than 17,000 people have now died since the uprising began in March last year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Sunday at least 46 people, including 20 civilians, were killed across Syria as Assad's forces attempted to storm the rebel strongholds of Qusayr and Rastan in the central province of Homs, the Observatory said.