Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham are upset with the Trump administration signaling that removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power is no longer a top priority.
During a trip to Turkey, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad’s fate will be decided by the Syrian people. That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who told reporters, “You pick and choose your battles. And when we’re looking at this it’s about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.”
In a statement Thursday evening, McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he is “deeply disturbed” by Tillerson’s and Haley’s comments.
“Their suggestion that Assad can stay in power appears to be just as devoid of strategy as President Obama‘s pronouncements that ‘Assad must go,'” McCain said. “Once again, U.S. policy in Syria is being presented piecemeal in press statements without any definition of success, let alone a realistic plan to achieve it.”
Graham, also a member of the Armed Services committee, said that such comments would be “the biggest mistake since President Obama failed to act after drawing a red line against Assad’s use of chemical weapons.”
Graham said that such a shift in policy would “ignore the wholesale slaughter of the Syrian people” by the Assad regime during the country’s ongoing civil war. He added that it would be a victory for Assad’s allies, Russia and Iran, and would be “crushing news” to U.S.-backed opposition forces.
McCain went further, saying the administration’s statements could negatively impact the war against the Islamic State by casting doubt among its allies. “Such a policy would only exacerbate the terrorist threat to our nation,” he said.
“Trying to fight ISIS while pretending that we can ignore the Syrian civil war that was its genesis and fuels it to this day is a recipe for more war, more terror, more refugees, and more instability,” McCain said. “I hope President Trump will make clear that America will not follow this self-destructive and self-defeating path.”
This post originally appeared on Washington Examiner