McCain: U.S. leadership on Syria "shameful and disgraceful"

(CBS News) The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunday the United States is not doing enough to help the rebels defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying the U.S. should be providing the Syrian rebels with weapons.

"The fact is, the United States has played no leadership role," Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., said on "Face the Nation."

"The United States of America's performance so far has been shameful and disgraceful," he said. "The President of the United States should be speaking out for the people of Syria."

McCain's comments comes one day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "the sand is running out of the hourglass" for the Assad regime.

McCain had strong words for Senator Clinton and the Obama administration. "How many times has Secretary Clinton said that in the last 14 months?" McCain asked. "And by the way, when was the last time the President of the United States stood up and said we are with these people?"

McCain said Washington can't continue to sit on the sidelines and just talk about a Syrian defeat. He told host Bob Schieffer that in addition to speaking out for Syrian rebels, the U.S. should be providing them with weapons.

"Right now, Bashar al-Assad is able to massacre and slaughter people and stay in power, thanks to the supply of Russian arms, thanks to Iranians that are on the ground," McCain said.

Schieffer asked McCain how the U.S. knows which rebels to give aid to, amid concerns of a lack of information on the factions of the regime's opposition.

"The fact is that these people are not, have not been taken over by extremists or al Qaeda, but they could be if this conflict drags on for months and even years," McCain said. "I am confident that if we overthrow Bashar al-Assad the people of Syria will do exactly what the Libyan people did yesterday and that is vote for a democratic and freely-elected government."

Turning to another conflict, Afghanistan, one in which the United States is deeply involved, McCain said President Obama is not focused on winning there.

"The president continues to announce withdrawals rather than strategies for victory," McCain said, who just returned from a visit there.

International donors on Saturday pledged $16 billion in civilian aid at a conference in Tokyo. The money is to assist the country as international security forces withdraw.

On "Face the Nation," McCain said Afghan President Hamid Karzai needs to fight corruption plaguing his country. "He has pledged to do that. We must hold him to that," McCain said, adding that the other major challenge to Afghanistan's success is the militant group, the Haqqani network, that is working with the Pakistan spy agency.

"We have to go after the Haqqani network and we have to go after them wherever they are. And we have to see progress in cleaning up and corruption," McCain said.

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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