Sep 23 2014

Statement by Senators Graham and McCain on Air Strikes Against ISIS in Syria

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and John McCain (R-Arizona) today released the following statement on last night's air strikes against ISIS and the Khorasan Group in Syria:

"We commend President Obama for ordering last night's air strikes against ISIS and the Khorasan Group in Syria, and the U.S. military for the skill and courage with which it carried out this operation. We especially salute our Arab partners for their historic and valuable involvement in our coalition effort. However, last night's air strikes should be just an opening salvo against ISIS in Syria. This will be a long, difficult campaign, and as ISIS regroups and adapts, we and our partners will ultimately need a limited presence of troops on the ground-not to invade and occupy Syria or Iraq, but to advise local forces, direct air strikes, gather intelligence, and conduct special forces operations, among other related missions.

"To succeed, the Administration must also resolve a contradiction in its policy: its desire to deal with ISIS first and defer the challenge posed by the Assad regime for later. Unfortunately, we do not have that luxury.

"We cannot pretend that moderate opposition forces in Syria will stop resisting a tyrant who has killed nearly 200,000 Syrians. Nor can we pretend that Assad will stop attacking moderate Syrian groups that remain committed to his ouster-especially when the United States and our partners still, correctly, share the same goal and will now be arming and training Assad's moderate opponents. The sooner the Administration wakes up to this reality the better. It must recognize that it is neither effective nor moral to train and equip thousands of Syrians to fight ISIS, but make no commitment to defend them from Assad's continued air strikes and barrel bombs.

"Prior to last night's operation, President Obama threatened the Assad regime with military retaliation if it attacked U.S. and partner forces fighting ISIS in Syria. That threat was credible, and it worked. The President should now issue a similar threat to Assad: The air strikes and barrel bombs against our moderate opposition partners and civilians in Syria must stop, or else your air power will be destroyed. After last night's operation, no one can question our military capability to enforce this threat at limited risk to our personnel. The President must display the resolve that can make this threat credible. If he does not, our Syrian partners will have less incentive to join us in fighting ISIS, and Assad's wanton brutality will continue to create conditions in Syria that enable ISIS to grow stronger and more threatening."