McCain: U.S. must arm Syrian opposition
U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Thursday released the following statement on Syria:
It is time for the Obama Administration to acknowledge what is obvious and indisputable in Syria: the Annan Plan has failed. Bashar al-Assad has not abided, and will not abide, by a ceasefire. And the only way to stop Assad's campaign of slaughter is for the United States to take tangible steps with our friends and allies to help the Syrian opposition change the military balance of power on the ground.
In a letter to the U.N. Security Council today, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated that Assad is in violation of virtually every provision of the Annan Plan. There is no freedom of movement for journalists. There is no timely provision of humanitarian assistance to areas affected by the fighting. There is no freedom for Syrians to 'demonstrate peacefully,' as is their legal right. And most of all, there is no ceasefire. On the contrary, Assad's tanks and artillery continue to shell civilian populations. His forces continue to assault and murder Syrians who attempt to protest peacefully. And his helicopters are now increasingly attacking Syrian towns and cities. Indeed, since the Annan Plan was announced last month, Assad has escalated the violence, killing at least one thousand additional Syrians and displacing thousands more from their homes.
These are the realities in Syria today, and by refusing to recognize them, the international community is only enabling Assad to continue killing. The United Nations cannot be seen as an ineffective body that is fiddling while Syria burns. Assad's campaign of violence will continue, as it has for more than a year now, until the military balance inside the country shifts against him. Until then, the killing will only increase, and diplomacy will continue to fail.
Changing the military balance inside Syria requires the United States, in close coordination with our Turkish, Arab and other allies, to provide the Syrian opposition with the help they are pleading for to defend themselves. This can include training and equipping the Syrian opposition with weapons, providing them with tactical intelligence, and using airpower to target Assad's command-and-control and help the Syrian opposition to create safe zones inside Syria.
Some in the Obama Administration have suggested that America can outsource responsibility for providing the opposition with lethal assistance. In fact, based on our own conversations with our friends in the region – including courageous men and women in the Syrian opposition – we are convinced that none of this critical support is on track to happen, nor will it happen, unless the United States shows leadership. Right now, no country is providing the Syrian opposition with the help it desperately needs. The United States and the world are failing the people of Syria. And every day that we refuse to lead, more Syrians will die.
John McCain is a Republican Senator from Arizona.