- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2013

Emerging from a private briefing with President Obama at the White House on Monday, Sen. John McCain warned it would be “catastrophic” if Congress rejected a resolution authorizing Mr. Obama to take military action against Syria over its suspected use of chemical weapons.

Mr. McCain, of Arizona, and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, two of the leading Republican voices in the Senate on defense matters, met with Mr. Obama as part of a series of briefings with top lawmakers of both parties ahead of expected votes on possible military action against Syria next week.


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“A vote against that resolution would be catastrophic,” Mr. McCain said. “It would undermine the credibility of the United States and of the president.”

Both men said the president was eyeing a plan to “degrade” the military capacity of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad while “upgrading” the capacity of democratic, pro-U.S. elements in rebel forces that have been battling Mr. Assad for two years.


The administration outlined “a pretty solid plan” to increase support for the Syrian opposition and get regional U.S. allies such as Jordan and Turkey more openly involved in the struggle against Mr. Assad, Mr. Graham said, with no plan now to introduce American troops on the ground in the Syrian civil war.

But Mr. Graham also acknowledged that the resolution was a “tough sell” for voters back home in South Carolina and that many lawmakers on Capitol Hill were still waiting for a better sense of the administration’s larger strategy before committing to support the resolution.

Mr. McCain said he was “encouraged” by Monday’s briefing but said he still is not committed to voting for the resolution until next week’s debate.