McCain: I'm "Skeptical" About This Whole Chemical Weapons Agreement

Daniel Doherty

9/10/2013 11:30:00 AM - Daniel Doherty

Of course he is. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and his fellow hawks have been pounding the war drum for weeks. But even he can’t help but admit that the president of the United States shouldn’t let this golden opportunity for diplomacy slip through his fingers:

Influential Republican Senator John McCain said on Tuesday he is working to modify a congressional resolution authorizing U.S. military force in Syria to include a "strict" timeline for Syria to turn over chemical weapons.

The amendment is a response to new diplomatic developments designed to ward off a U.S. military strike, highlighted by Russia's agreement Monday to get Syria to turn over its chemical weapons.

Speaking on CBS' "This Morning" program, McCain said he was "extremely skeptical" about such a diplomatic solution but that "to not pursue this option would be a mistake."

"Some of us are already working on a modification to a Congressional resolution that would require strict timelines and strict guidelines that would have to be met as part of the authorization for the president" to use military force, he said.

McCain offered few specifics about his measure, but other lawmakers have also been floating proposals that would allow a certain window of time before allowing President Barack Obama to take further action, which could include air strikes.

And, he said, if we’re going to accept Assad’s olive branch (facilitated, of course, by the Russians), let’s get the process moving:

"If he's serious, then let the monitors in there right away. We know where these chemical weapons sites are, and get them under control immediately," McCain told CBS.

The Maverick’s biggest concern, perhaps, is that Assad and his henchmen will “agree” to turn over all of their chemical weapons, but in reality they won’t -- at least not all of them. And with the Russians presumably overseeing the exchange (who maybe provided Assad with chemical weapons in the first place) there is little room for transparency and accountability. Therefore, McCain implies, we shouldn’t take the military option off the table. And surely his skepticism is wholly justified: Evidence is piling up by the day that Assad used chemical weapons on civilians, many of whom were children. There’s no telling what he might say or do to retain power. To trust Assad at this stage of the game would be foolish.

At the same time, Carol noted something interesting last night: If a diplomatic agreement is reached and the U.S. doesn’t bomb Assad, it will become abundantly clear once again to America’s enemies that President Obama’s red line edicts are meaningless. Yes, he will avoid a military conflict for the time being (thus placating a wary public) but his credibility on the world stage would be further eroded. This isn’t to say that the administration should launch airstrikes into Syria so as to save their own hides. But even a political “victory” (if indeed the deal goes through) is hardly a victory at all. There’s no easy way out for this administration: there are only less-bad options.