Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Senators Fault Obama For Positions on Syria, Iran
A trio of senior U.S. senators on Friday accused the Obama administration of failing to respond adequately to the nuclear standoff with Iran and the escalating violence in Syria, the Associated Press reported.
Senators Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) want the White House to adopt a harsher policy that would persuade Iran to stop its atomic activities, which Washington and other capitals believe are aimed at producing a nuclear-weapon capability. The long-serving senators also called for the United States to provide weapons to Syrian opposition fighters -- a step the U.S. government has resisted out of fear it might lead to small-arms proliferation in the region and greater chaos in the country.
McCain contended the Obama administration's implicit threat to Damascus of punitive military action following a chemical weapons attack has actually placed Syrian dissidents and rebel fighters at greater risk.
"If you're (Syrian President) Bashar Assad ... maybe you interpret that to mean that you can do anything short of chemical weapons before the United States will intervene," McCain said at a meeting of private sector and political notables in Italy.
Lieberman called for the United States to impose a "safe zone" in Syria where fleeing displaced persons could be protected from regime attacks. He also called for the provision of arms to the Syrian rebellion.
McCain said sanctions, which the Obama administration is emphasizing as a means of coercing Iran to halt its disputed nuclear development program, have been shown historically to be a largely ineffective in producing a desired change in a hostile government's behavior.
"We have applied very tough economic sanctions on Iran and they have clearly affected the economy of Iran but they have not affected the nuclear program one iota. By its recalcitrance Iran is presenting the rest of the world with only two choices: Do we accept a nuclear Iran and try to contain it or do we take military action?" Lieberman said. "That's a fateful decision that's got to be made in the months ahead."
Tehran says there is no military intent to its atomic program, and U.S. intelligence chiefs said earlier this year they do not believe Iranian leaders have made a formal decision to pursue a nuclear weapon. The Connecticut lawmaker said the "red line" for Iran should be when it develops the capacity to build a nuclear weapon and not when the nation moves forward with physical production of such a armament.
"If the Iranians believed that there's a credible threat of a massive attack by the United States to disrupt their nuclear program and their regime's survivability," they will start thinking differently," Graham asserted.
"I believe (Iranian leaders) feel that a nuclear weapon gives them complete immunity forever because the international community will leave them alone if they get that weapon," the South Carolina Republican said. "The one thing I know they cannot possibly believe is that they can survive a conflict with the United States."
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