Sen. McCain: It's time to arm Syria's rebels

Rebels inside Syria say the dictatorship of Bashir al Assad is massing tanks and troops outside the city of Homs.

Homs has been under artillery bombardment for more than two weeks. It's a city of 1.7 million. Homs is one of the centers of the freedom movement that has been fighting for a year to overthrow the four-decade-old dictatorship of the Assad family. The rebels are civilians for the most part, and badly out-gunned.

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He spoke with CBS News anchor Scott Pelley about the situation in Syria.

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PELLEY: Senator, you think the United States should play a role in getting arms to the rebels one way or another. How would that work?

MCCAIN: Well, I think there's a number of ways. For example, in Libya, without our direct involvement, there was arms that were obtained by the Libyan rebels. One of the ideas that's been floated is a kind of sanctuary that would allow people to train and equip. We don't need to do that directly. But I think that there are ways to get arms to the resistance and the Turks in the Arab League can play a great, a very significant role.

PELLEY: Senator, why should the United States have a role? Why is this our problem, if you will?

MCCAIN: I think it's world's community problem, and America leads. Here is an unchecked massacre using artillery, tanks and most horrible means, massacring his own people by Bashir Assad. It's the same rationale why we went into Bosnia. It's the same reason why we went into Kosovo. It's the same reason why we involved ourselves in other parts of the world on behalf of people who can't help themselves and that's a role and a mission and a tradition of the United States of America. It has to be carefully done. I'm not calling for an invasion of Syria, but I am calling for practical measures which can be of assistance to them, which would break this stalemate, which would allow the Syrian people to achieve the aspiration that we hold for all people.

  • Scott Pelley

    Correspondent, "60 Minutes"