John McCain: Syrian peace plan's failure is proof that military action is required

(CBS News) This was to be the day the fighting stopped in Syria. A little over a year ago, a freedom movement rose up to overthrow the 41-year dictatorship of the Assad family.

Since then, President Bashar al-Assad has been shelling his own cities, killing thousands. He was supposed to pull out his troops on Tuesday in an agreement he made with the former head of the U.N., Kofi Annan, but that didn't happen.

CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward reports that Damascus residents woke up to tanks rolling through their neighborhoods on the first day of the ceasefire. Meanwhile, shells rained down on the battered city of Homs - a center of the resistance - dimming any hope that the Assad regime would honor its commitment to stop the violence.

About 24,000 refugees have fled Syria to these camps. Thousands crossed in the last week as violence surged in advance of Tuesday's deadline.

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On Tuesday morning, U.S. senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman - both strong advocates of international intervention - visited a Syrian refugee camp inside Turkey. McCain said there is no doubt about whether the peace plan was a failure.

"I think it was a failure from the start. Most of us knew because there was no pressure for Bashar Assad to actually stop the killing. We think it's going to require military action on the ground to get him to leave," McCain said.

So far, those countries supporting the Syrian rebels have balked at military intervention.

"It's really time to come together and act on behalf of these people who are putting their own lives on the line and no one is really helping them," Leiberman said.

"Americans are war weary, but presidents lead. If the president of the U.S. tells the American people about this slaughter, I am confident the American people will support stopping it," McCain said.

The refugees cheered the message, but what they may not know is how unlikely the Obama administration is to embrace the idea of military action.

Syria's foreign minister said that troops had begun to withdraw from towns and cities but that there could not actually be an end to the violence until international monitors arrive inside Syria. He also said the Syrian regime should have a hand in picking who those monitors should be. He was essentially trying to renegotiate the terms of the peace plan on the very day his government was supposed to implement it.

Bashar al-Assad's regime has broken many promises. In August, he assured the U.N. that military and police operations had stopped. In November, he agreed to a peace plan with Arab leaders, then launched the bombardment of the city of Homs, a city of 1.5 million people. And in February, he promised his Russian allies that he would stop the violence.

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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