SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan (AP) — U.S. Senator John McCain said Sunday that military action to protect civilians in Syria might be considered now that NATO’s air campaign in Libya is ending.
However, President Barack Obama’s administration has made clear it has no appetite for military intervention in Syria — a close ally of Iran that sits on Israel’s border.
“Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria,” McCain said at the World Economic Forum in Jordan. “The Assad regime should not consider that it can get away with mass murder. Gadhafi made that mistake and it cost him everything,” he added, referring to ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi who was captured and killed last week by fighters loyal to the new government.
“Iran’s rulers would be wise to heed similar counsel,” McCain said.
It was not clear whether the Republican senator from Arizona was referring to American or NATO military action against the Syrian regime, which has waged a 7-month crackdown on opposition protesters and killed about 3,000 people, according to the U.N.
However, international intervention, such as the NATO action in Libya that helped topple Gadhafi, is all but out of the question in Syria. Washington and its allies have shown little inclination for getting involved militarily in another Arab nation in turmoil. There also is real concern that Assad’s ouster would spread chaos around the region.
Syria is a geographical and political keystone in the heart of the Middle East, bordering five countries with which it shares religious and ethnic minorities and, in Israel’s case, a fragile truce. Its web of alliances extends to Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement and Iran’s Shiite theocracy. There are worries that a destabilized Syria could send unsettling ripples through the region.
McCain also warned Iran after it was accused in the United States of backing a plot never carried out to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.
“Their plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington has only reminded Americans of the threat posed by this regime, how it is killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, supporting violent groups across the region, destabilizing Arab countries, propping up the Assad regime, seeking nuclear weapons, trampling on the dignity of Iran’s people.”
He also accused Iran of trying to “hijack” the Arab Spring.
“No issue unifies the American people more than the need to protect our friends, our allies, our interests from the comprehensive threat posed by the Iranian regime. No one should test our resolve in this matter,” McCain said.
“Not to say that American leadership is neither welcomed nor wanted in the Middle East today. To the contrary, as I travel across this region, I have met with heads of state, young democratic activists business leaders and nearly every single one wants more American leadership and not less.”