You are hereMcCain Wants to Arm Syrian Rebels As UN Begins Peace Mission
McCain Wants to Arm Syrian Rebels As UN Begins Peace Mission
A high-ranking U.S. senator is again calling for arming Syrian rebels as part of a more robust effort to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Republican Senator John McCain spoke on U.S. television as an advance team of unarmed U.N. observers was due to arrive in Syria.
Senator McCain says America’s response to continued bloodletting in Syria is inadequate and shameful.
“For the United States to sit by and watch this wanton massacre is a betrayal of everything we stand for and believe in,” he said.
The Arizona lawmaker recently met in Turkey with senior officers of the opposition Free Syrian Army, which has been pleading for foreign military assistance. Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation program, McCain said the United States should answer the call.
“Over there, they [Syrian rebels] are waiting for American leadership," said McCain. "We have announced that we are now providing them with non-lethal equipment. That does not do very well against tanks and artillery. We need to get a sanctuary for the Free Syrian Army; we need to get them supplies; we need to get them weapons. And there are many ways to get weapons to them. We showed that in Libya, we showed that in Afghanistan [in the 1980s].”
The Obama administration says it supports providing humanitarian relief to the Syrian people, and has backed U.N.-led efforts to halt fighting and begin negotiations between the Syrian government and its opponents. But McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, notes that Syrian rebels are outgunned and that, as he put it, “It is not a fair fight.”
McCain also blasted Russia and China for blocking stronger U.N. Security Council measures to quell bloodshed and speed a transition in Syria, and said a U.N.-Arab League peace plan is inadequate because it does not specify Bashar al-Assad’s removal from power.
Russia and China on Saturday joined the rest of the council members in voting to send an advance team of unarmed observers to Syria to monitor a fragile cease-fire between the government and armed opposition forces.
Syrian Clashes Continue as UN Monitors Begin Mission
The first six members of a U.N. observer team began work in Damascus Monday as activists said Syrian government troops continued to shell rebel neighborhoods in the opposition stronghold, Homs.
A second group of 24 observers is expected soon. A larger 250-member team requires more negotiations between the U.N. and the Syrian government.
Moroccan Colonel Ahmed Himmiche, who heads the U.N.-Arab League observer team, told journalists in Damascus that he thinks the observer mission is going as planned.
He said in the coming days, 30 of the observers that were agreed to in last week's U.N. Security Council resolution will be deployed.
But al Arabiya television reported that President Bashar al-Assad's media adviser, Boutheina Shaaban, said Syria “reserves the right to refuse the deployment of observers from certain countries” as well as the right to “prevent them from deploying in certain areas.”
On a visit to Brussels Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged both the Syrian government and the opposition to use restraint in order to preserve the fragile cease-fire that went into effect last Thursday.
"It is very important that cessation of violence must continue and the Syrian authorities must exercise maximum restraint...Opposition forces should also fully cooperate so that the cessation of violence will continue," the U.N. chief said.
Ban asked both sides to engage in dialogue. He said the U.N. would help the Syrian people by providing humanitarian assistance.
Analyst Peter Harling of the International Crisis Group said it appears that neither the Syrian government nor the opposition is eager to see the peace mission succeed.
"Within the opposition there's a temptation to pull the plug on what some see as a distraction from more serious options, and in particular Western military intervention, and within the regime there's an understanding, I think, that any genuine political process will come at the expense of those who benefited from the ongoing crisis and in particular the security services," said Harling.
Harling said that the challenge of the monitoring mission is "to get a foot in the door and see where things go from there,” although he doubts it will end the crisis any time soon. Harling's view is that the international community “supports the mission half-heartedly....[because] they expect it to fail.”
Besides the shelling in Homs, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that security forces also shot dead two people in the central city of Hama when they opened fire on a car. Clashes persisted elsewhere in the country.