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Sen. McCain: 'Assad could have been stopped last year'

February 11th, 2013
05:02 PM ET

The civil war in Syria could have been stopped last year if President Obama had armed the rebels, Republican Senator John McCain told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“I always believed that we could provide weapons and training, but I also felt it was important to establish a safe zone,” McCain said. Had that happened, he added, “I am confident that [the rebels] would have succeeded by now.”

In Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s exit testimony before Congress last week, he revealed that Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus had offered up a plan to arm and train the Syrian opposition last summer. The plan was rejected by the White House.

With his testimony, Panetta became the first senior official to publicly admit that he, along with key members of the President's national security team, disagreed with the White House decision not to give weapons to Syrian rebels.

Two years into the fighting, the vicious war has at best reached a military stalemate. There is no meaningful sign that either side is ready for real negotiations, though both the opposition and the Assad regime have recently indicated for the first time that they would be willing to talk.

With 60,000 dead, Syria may be headed toward a Somalia-style failed state that could threaten the U.S. and its friends in the region.

What is Plan B? Senator John McCain answers that question in the video above.

READ MORE: Plea from parents of missing American in Syria

Filed under:  Latest Episode • Syria
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Mimi Champlin

    Great, McCain, ANOTHER WAR TO FUND BY THE AMERICAN TAX DOLLARS. He's utterly insane.

    February 11, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Reply
    • Tony


      February 11, 2013 at 6:50 pm | Reply
    • avtar singh

      Why does McCain and America think they are the decision makers as to who should be in power or not globally? It's a Syrian issue..let them solve it themselves with their arab neighbours.

      Stop trying to police the world. You are in massive debt and can't even solve your own fiscal problems.

      February 12, 2013 at 8:10 am | Reply
      • notarichwhiteman

        McCain is a joke why does the media continue to give these dinosour a platform?

        February 13, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  2. CM

    This is what you wanted, a world free of American intervention. A world with murderous dictators and suffer that is allowed and goes unpunished because it is more important that we complain that the Americans never mind their own business. Let the weak suffer and die and let the powerful prosper and kill.

    February 11, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Reply
    • KM

      Yes, a world free of American intervention is what I want, and I am American. We cannot continue to pick a side in every conflict in every corner of the world and try to guarantee a certain outcome, failing as often as we win. But for those of you who love war and support endless arms sales, I can see why that view may not be to your liking. And who cares what John McCain thinks? He is well past his sell-by date. He should retire and live on the glory of having been relevant at one time, long ago.

      February 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Reply
      • dean

        Well said. I for one would love to be able to read some news coming out of Washington without McCains insanity involved. There are reasons age limits are placed on things. McCAIN IS A PRIME EXAMPLE

        February 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm |
      • Pete

        Km that is a ridiculously over simplified view and maybe you should read a history book or two. Do you not understand that even you as American were once considered the rebels by the British?

        February 11, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
      • jimmy lim

        His electorate should ask him to retire. There should be term limits to senatorship

        February 11, 2013 at 10:49 pm |
  3. Abdul

    I believe that violence in Syria should be stopped as soon as possible and by any means necessary, regardless we agree or disagree sith Assad and his policy in his country; the U.S interests in the region is what really matters. Yes, we should support people in their pursuit of democracy and freedom, but we should stand more strongly against any thing that threatens our interests and our security in such a vital region in the world.

    February 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Reply
  4. Norman Nabatar

    Yeah, intervene in the Syrian and get into more trouble. Isn't that what Benghazi was about?

    February 11, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  5. D.A.

    Send aid to the Syrian rebels is arming more Islamist. Most of the recent rebel advances, especially in the East of the country, have been by terrorist groups

    February 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Reply
  6. weather01089

    Problem is, in the past when various groups were armed, they came back to bite us.
    We cannot go in there unilaterally without support from others in the region. Why us?
    Without support from other countries, we should keep our hands off. We are not the
    police of the entire world.

    February 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm | Reply
    • lex

      Totally agree. We can't be the police for the entire world. If we do something it has to be done with our allies.

      February 11, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Reply
  7. tomj

    The crazy war loving warmonger John McCain would have invaded them, bomb them and started a war with them. McCain is just a bitter, jealous unqualified, revengeful, vindictive, hateful warmonger.

    February 11, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Reply
  8. David

    I believe in the strategic role Syria plays in the regions terror network. During Operation Iraqi Freedom the main gate for foreign fighters to the country was Syria. This is literally a place where foreign fighters dedicated to insurgency in Iraq piled up and got stuck at as the war slowed, Iraq was put to the afterburner as the realization that new tactics needed to be used. They adapted, they have changed tactic completely, they now own the rights to this fight in Syria and all I see is the weapons stockpiles being pillaged. This is my prediction of things to come, Assad will lose, unless he gets tremendous foreign support(which would lead to foreign intervention), the rebels will go after the weapons along with Hezbollah and Iran, then Israel will drop some bombs to prevent WMDs from getting into rebel hands, a move that will then unite the rebels, Hezbollah and Iran against Israel creating a very ready and equipped million man army at the start, then lets not forget that Mohammed Morsi isn't Egypt, he may claim peace, but his citizens won't even leave him in peace, then let's remember Libya where we have Qaddafis treasure trove of weapons that have fallen in to terrorists hands....add some sympathizers from Czech, Bosnia, and mix it with terror cells doing their thing throughout the world......we can't look at the input and output alone....we can not let a million refugees make us lose sight of what is happening, we should not look at the refugees as a reason to side with the rebels, siding with the rebels is not in my best interest, although it is the easiest solution, it has long term consequences. Instead there should be foreign intervention to enforce a cease fire, where rebels are not to fight anymore. What I mean is security shall be provided by Coalition forces, no rebels, no Syrian army, only NATO forces. This sounds like an unacceptable proposition, but neither side can be trusted so for the sake of the security of the people and enduring and immediate peace, please green light a declaration of intervention, deploy land/air/sea assets, take over the role of the police and set up an emergency government of appointed persons. Meanwhile this situation can be talked out, as long as you guarantee Assad amnesty, I think he'd go for it. It's basically pulling the dogs off from fighting with each other. 60,000 people are dead, that's 50,000 more than when I thought this was really getting bad and something must be done...There must be an intervention, however, this can have drastic implications in terms of Jihadists literally having a proverbial button to summon western troops that they can kill at will.....they would just need to create unrest in a country.....and boy is the unrest industry wonder they call it Spring....

    February 11, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  9. lex

    Damned if we do, damned if we don't.

    February 11, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  10. keeth

    "Bomb bomb Iran." Yeah, great foreign policy. It's time for this old man to go away quietly.

    February 11, 2013 at 7:28 pm | Reply
    • HM


      February 11, 2013 at 8:08 pm | Reply
  11. Jocho Johnson

    Oh get lost McCain, go charter a plane with Sarah Palin and join the Syrian terrorist rebel jihadists yourself if you want to go help them. Really.

    February 11, 2013 at 8:13 pm | Reply
  12. jane

    Americans are tired of the US policing the world and in return the people we help hates us.....We had ENOUGH!!!

    February 11, 2013 at 10:17 pm | Reply
  13. Ajay

    I am hoping that someday MaCain would say that George Bush could have been stopped.... World would have been better off.

    February 11, 2013 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  14. jimmy lim

    The arabs/muslims will never be grateful. Just look at Iraq/Afghan n Libya. Damn if you do and damn if you dont. US can never win whether if you do or not

    February 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Reply
    • Awabnavi

      Arabs/Muslims won't damn you if you don't interfere in their affairs. Of that you can be sure. They only damn you when you do. So if you do not want to be DAMNED – STOP IT.

      February 12, 2013 at 12:02 am | Reply
      • David

        Not true....during the Libyan Revolution and now in the Syrian, the rebels begged for support and slurred criticism after criticism for the world not supporting them.....What if the US just stopped helping everyone? Pulled back all their naval forces to their territories, left all their bases around the world and returned to the US. Can you imagine what would be happen? America wouldn't be policing the world if there was nothing to police.

        February 12, 2013 at 8:58 am |
  15. Awabnavi

    If ASSAD'S father was stopped back then he would not be the current president. LOL!

    February 12, 2013 at 12:00 am | Reply
    • David

      So with the same motivation to do that.....let's stop some people now that we are going to regret not stopping later...

      February 12, 2013 at 9:04 am | Reply
  16. Chima

    Mcain, One thing is clear,America never learn! How about Afghanistan?! Obama is intelligent.

    February 12, 2013 at 4:24 am | Reply
    • jimmy lim

      Yes I agree Obama is extremely intelligent. He knows "Damned if he does and damned if he doesnt". Why should he order US to be the world policeman? He is just focussing on donestic issues. And rightly so.

      February 12, 2013 at 4:39 am | Reply
  17. David

    Damned if we don't(and save a lot of money and american lives, and have the world hate you), damned if we do(and rack up a debt out of this universe, and have the world hate you)....fact is, if America goes to war or does something big, your currency will go down, that's for sure....America is already seen as on the edge of the cliff, however, recovery is being seen, from an economic point of view, any action is economic suicide. However, then we have morals, and other countries we can call upon to join in. Unless they're all on board no one moves....America should not always be paying the bill for the worlds safety. However noble it is, it has a cost that will bring you down as well....maybe there should be a Noble Act resolution at the UN....that countries intervening in a situation for the greater good incur no debts for such long as each individual case is approved by the UN....because it always ends up being money over morals....

    February 12, 2013 at 9:49 am | Reply
  18. jolly

    But who is McCain? He is an ordinary American soldier captured by the enemy in war.Like all captured US soldiers he comes back home to be called a Hero.He did nothing in the war.All captured Taliban and Al Qaeda lieutenants would have been heroes have they been Americans.Easy to be a hero as an American.

    February 12, 2013 at 10:38 am | Reply
  19. Howie

    McCain was a naval air fighter. Anyway, he seems so deluded that he has to walk into a hornet's nest several times before he gets the point.

    February 13, 2013 at 9:02 am | Reply
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