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Beltway Confidential

John McCain on Syria strikes: If it’s not regime change, what is it?

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., suggested that President Obama has no choice but order strikes that would take down Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad’s regime, given his 2011 statement that “Assad must step aside.”

“[T]he president needs to stick to his word, which is, two years ago, he said Bashar al Assad must go,” McCain said on Morning Joe.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama doesn’t plan to bring down Assad with the impending strikes. “I want to make clear that the options that we are considering are not about regime change,” Carney said.  “They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons.”

McCain disagrees with that position. “[T]he president can say whatever he wants to, but isn’t it contradictory that two years ago he said [Assad] must go and now he’s saying this isn’t aimed at regime change?” he asked. “And if it isn’t aimed at regime change, what is it aimed at?”

The Arizona lawmaker returned to that topic later in the segment. “How do you reconcile the president’s statements that Bashar [al assad] has to go — he has said that as long ago as two years ago — and then say, ‘what we’re doing here, don’t get us wrong, is not regime change’? I don’t know how you reconcile those two comments,” McCain said.

 

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