Sen. John McCain urged President Obama Wednesday to “wake up” and reassert American leadership in the Middle East, following reports that Russian military jets carried out their first airstrikes in support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“This is the inevitable consequence of hollow words, red lines crossed, tarnished moral influence, leading from behind and a total lack of American leadership,” the Arizona Republican said on the Senate floor.
The White House said the Defense Department is reviewing the situation in Syria, and it’s too early to verify reports that the Russians targeted some moderate opposition forces aligned with the U.S.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the buildup of Russian military support for Syria is “an indication of how concerned they are about losing influence in the one client-state they have in the Middle East.”
He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin, in talks with Mr. Obama on Monday at the United Nations, agreed “on the need for a political solution” in Syria.
“This calls into question their strategy,” he said of the military buildup.
Mr. Putin says the Assad government is the only effective fighting force able to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.
Asked to comment on Mr. McCain’s criticism of the president, Mr. Earnest replied, “Must be a day that ends in a ‘y.’”