Speaking CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that the Trump administration is partly to blame for Syria’s use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people. “I think it probably was partially to blame. And Secretary [Rex] Tillerson basically saying the same thing after kind of contradicting himself and then saying the same thing argues vigorously for a plan and a strategy,” the Arizona senator said on Sunday.
"As I said, again, taking this action I support and was important.” In March, Tillerson said that the people of Syria will determine what happens to Syrian President Bashr al-Assad.
Offering advice, McCain said the administration should deal with the Syrian crisis concretely but should not think of last week’s strike by the U.S. with 59 cruise missiles as a “one-time deal.” McCain said that neglecting other Syrian military assets shows ignorance of the scale of the problem.
McCain, who has frequently tangled with President Trump, denounced Tillerson’s suggestion that defeating the Islamic State has precedence over stabilizing Syria. The senior Arizona senator said that the U.S. should focus on war crimes committed by the Assad government. “So there's a lot of war crimes that are taking place. And another aspect of this that I do not agree with the secretary is that you have to just concentrate on ISIS,” McCain said. “We can walk and chew gum.”
ISIS is reaching out and touching its perceived enemies outside of Syria. For example, it claimed that its operatives conducted two deadly bomb attacks on Christian churches in Egypt on Sunday, as well as other terrorist actions such as last week’s vehicular attack in Stockholm that claimed 11 lives. Nearly three dozen worshippers will killed in Egypt by ISIS, which continues to engage in firefights with Egyptian security forces.
On Thursday, 59 Tomahawk missiles launched by a U.S. Navy vessel in the Mediterranean struck the Shayrat air base near Homs. Personnel at the base had 30 minutes’ warning before the rain of missiles. Russians were at the base, in addition to Syrians. The U.S. attack was a retaliation for Assad’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The chemical attack claimed at least 80 lives. Despite the devastation unleashed by the missiles, Syria’s air force continues to make sorties from the base.
Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.