McCain: ‘Syria civil war could have been stopped last year’


mccain defThe 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.