McCain hits Russia’s support for Syria

Russia has dispatched two warships and a unit of marines to secure its naval base at the Syrian port of Tartus, and it is delivering anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles to help Syrian President Bashar Assad defend his regime, Sen. John McCain said Monday.

“Clearly, this is not a fair fight,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington think tank.

Russia’s Interfax news agency, quoting an unidentified Russian naval source, first reported on Monday that the warships were “preparing for a non-routine departure” for Tartus.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last week accused Russia of sending helicopter gunships to the Assad regime, engaging in a war of words over the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Russia says it has only refurbished and returned helicopters it sold to Syria a year ago.

“Whether these are new helicopters or old ones that Assad sent to Russia to be refurbished and have the blood washed off of them is a distinction without a difference,” Mr. McCain said.

Mr. McCain also criticized the Obama administration for what he said was its failure to lead on Syria.

“To say they are ‘leading from behind’ is too generous,” he said. “That suggests they are leading. They are just behind.”

President Obama is likely to discuss the situation in Syria when he meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Mexico on Monday.

Russia is unlikely to ever support a policy of regime change in Syria,” Mr. McCain said.

Over the weekend, the United Nations announced it was halting monitoring operations in Syria because of the worsening security situation in the country.

More than 14,000 people have died since the start of the anti-Assad uprising 15 months ago, according to activists.

Assad appears to be accelerating his fight to the finish,” said Mr. McCain, adding that the international community is nearing a “major point of decision.”

Former U.N. Secretary-General “Kofi Annan’s plan, which does not even call for Assad to go, has been a failure for months,” Mr. McCain said.

The senator proposed multilateral action in Syria, which would include working closely with Arab and European allies, especially Turkey, and not require putting U.S. boots on the ground.

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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