McCain/Graham Working on Resolution to Make Sure the U.N. "Defangs" Assad

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 10 2013 2:12 PM

McCain/Graham Working on Resolution to Make Sure the U.N. "Defangs" Assad

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Sens. Lindsay Graham, left, and John McCain host a health care town hall meeting Sept. 14, 2009, at the Citadel in Charleston, S.C. Their current task is to take Bashar al-Assad's fangs and give them to the U.N.

Photo by Richard Ellis/Getty Images

On their way into the Republican luncheon—with special guest star and non-Republican Barack Obama—John McCain and Lindsey Graham told reporters that they were working to add teeth to any UN resolution to take away Syria's chemical weapons.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

"We're working on addition to the resolution to make sure that proper conditions are met with firm conditions for action," said McCain. "I'm very skeptical as to whether the Russians will be serious or not but it's worth pursuing. We're working with the White House, with Democrats, to come up with something ... in the resolution we could call for nearly immediate actions to be taken to secure those chemical weapons. It could be done in a matter of days."

Graham, who like McCain had been banging the drums on Syria for better than a year, called the current situation a "debacle"—not that they'd hit bottom. With inspections, for example. "The one thing we can't do is let it become a joke like Saddam Hussein was in 2003. There has to be a definable outcome here."* He argued for some timeline to make sure that the United States would enforce the weapons removal if Syria dithered. "If there is a real possibility the U.N. could defang Assad, come up with a way to transfer weapons out of his control, chemical weapons in the international community's hands, I'd certainly like that outcome," he said. "I'm skeptical, but if that becomes a real possibility you could factor that into the resolution on the war."

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One more point of agreement: Messy as this fortnight has been, it's gotten Russia and Syria to climb down from an reasonable position.

"Without the threat to use force," said McCain, "I'm not sure this proposal would have come forward."

"The president told me this two days ago," said Graham. "The resolution coming out of the Foreign Relations committee really got Russia's attention.

*Originally, I misattributed the quote that follows the asterisk to McCain. It was still Graham.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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