McCain: Israeli strikes could force US action

US lawmakers worry of possible American involvement in Syria.

May 5, 2013 22:02
3 minute read.
US Senator John McCain

US Senator John McCain 370 (R). (photo credit: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)


"Every day that goes by, Hezbollah increases their influence and the radical jihadists flow into Syria and the situation becomes more and more tenuous," he said.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week that Washington was rethinking its opposition to arming the Syrian rebels. He cautioned that giving weapons to the forces fighting President Bashar Assad was only one option, which carried the risk of arms finding their way into the hands of anti-American extremists among the insurgents.

Obama said on Saturday that Israel has the right to guard against the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, but his administration has not commented further on the air strikes.

The United States has said it has "varying degrees of confidence" that chemical weapons have been used by Syria's government on its people, which violates a "red line" that Obama had established against such action.

The United States is seeking more evidence to determine whether and how chemical weapons have been used. Obama, who has said he does not envision sending US troops to Syria regardless of whether chemical weapons use is determined, has said he has a number of other options under review.

Obama has repeatedly shied away from deep US involvement in the Syrian conflict, which erupted in 2011 and has killed an estimated 70,000 people and created more than 1.2 million refugees.

Foreign Fighters

White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One on Sunday that the White House was "horrified" by reports that more than 100 people were executed on May 2 in Baida, Syria.

State forces and militias loyal to Assad stormed the coastal village on Thursday and a pro-opposition monitoring group said many of those killed appeared to have been executed by shooting or stabbing.

McCain criticized Obama for failing to intervene to stop that massacre and for not acting when the chemical weapons red line was crossed.

Republican Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described the situation in the Middle East as "deteriorating by the day" because of the massive influx of foreign fighters pouring into Syria that could reach more than 10,000 this year.

"Hezbollah is now moving troops - Hezbollah troops, financed by Iran - across Syria. They're engaged in the fight to protect the Assad regime," Rogers said on CBS's Face the Nation. "You have the al-Nusra Front, which is an al-Qaida front organization in the thousands showing up."

He said all fighters were trying to get their hands on chemical weapons and more sophisticated conventional arms. In addition, refugees were fleeing the country and threatened to add more instability to the region.

"This is as bad a situation I have seen in a long time that has an opportunity to cascade," Rogers said.

He said the United States needed to provide leadership through intelligence and training to the opposition, and work with the Arab League to help stabilize the situation in Syria.

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