Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) offered a sobering view of the present situation in the Middle East along with a harsh critique of the Obama administration’s foreign policy strategy at this morning’s Foreign Policy Roundtable at American Israeli Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.
McCain expressed especially grave concern about the Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the response thus far from the United States.
“It’s very clear they [the Iranians] are on a path to having a nuclear weapon,” McCain warned.
Last week the United States and the other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, agreed to discuss lifting sanctions on Iran if the country promises to restrict it’s uranium enrichment program. In the past the super powers had only offered to lift sanctions on Iran’s spare parts for airliners and ordered Iran to shut down its enrichment program completely in order to eliminate the country’s ability to develop nuclear power. However world leaders have now said they would be open to allowing Iran to keep its enrichment plant open and lifting sanctions on Iran’s precious metals industry. Off the table still are sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial sectors.
At Monday’s roundtable McCain decried the Obama administration’s recent overtures. According to McCain, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,“This latest offer on the part of the United States and its allies was doomed to failure. In Tehran, it’s viewed as weakness because of additional concessions.”
These concessions send the wrong message to Iran about the U.S.’s relationship with Israel, McCain noted.
“They [the Iranians] must understand that there is no space between the United States and Israel…They believe in Tehran right now that there is space between the United States and Israel…We need members of the National Security team who are pro-Israel, not anti-Israel.”
Another topic of concern to McCain was the Obama administration’s backing of Syrian President Basher al-Assad.
“Syria is a national and international shame that we’ve allowed Basher Assad to massacre 80,000 people, and we’ve done nothing about it,” McCain said. He warned that “jihadists are flowing into Syria in large numbers…they are the bravest fighters. Arms and equipment are going to the wrong [factions].”
“It’s time the United States establish no fly zones and provide arms and equipment [to the right factions],” he added.
While many foreign policy hawks were dismayed by McCain’s about face on Chuck Hagel and his last minute decision to vote to confirm the former Nebraska Senator as Secretary of Defense, Senator McCain’s strong admonishment today to President Barack Obama and his administration’s policy relating to Iran, Israel, and Syria suggests that he will remain a strong advocate of the country’s national security interests and of Israel throughout President Obama’s second term.