President Barack Obama will meet with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Syria — a meeting that could serve as one of the most significant in Obama’s
quest for Congressional approval for limited military action in Syria.
A Graham spokeswoman confirmed that both senators will be at the White House at 2 p.m. Monday.
Getting McCain and Graham to come around to his plan on Syria will be essential for Obama in earning Senate passage of authorization of force. They represent two of the Republican Party’s fiercest foreign policy “hawks.” They support action, but they don’t think Obama’s current plan of limited airstrikes is enough.
And they want a strategy that will eventually lead to the toppling of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad — something the administration says is not the goal of the current plan, as it could lead to a longer-than-anticipated engagement in the country.
McCain and Graham signaled in a joint statement on Saturday that Obama’s seeking of Congressional approval might face more hurdles — not only from anti-war doves, but also from hawks who doesn’t think his plan goes far enough.
Here’s their joint statement:
“We believe President Obama is correct that the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons requires a military response by the United States and our friends and allies. Since the President is now seeking Congressional support for this action, the Congress must act as soon as possible.
“However, we cannot in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the President’s stated goal of Assad’s removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict, which is a growing threat to our national security interests. Anything short of this would be an inadequate response to the crimes against humanity that Assad and his forces are committing. And it would send the wrong signal to America’s friends and allies, the Syrian opposition, the Assad regime, Iran, and the world — all of whom are watching closely what actions America will take.”
It is part of the White House’s “flood the zone” approach to earn Congressional approval — though this meeting is a touch more personal. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday that features Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel. And the Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday.
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