US lawmakers expressed worries Sunday that a lack of American action on Syria could send a signal to Israel and Iran that Washington would not be steadfast in thwarting Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
Speaking to Channel 2 News, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) said US President Barack Obama’s decision to put off military action until after Congressional approval had rattled Israel’s belief in the US commitment to protecting the Jewish state from the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran.
“It has discouraged our allies and I am most worried about the effect it will have on Israel and on Iran,” McCain said. “The Iranians are nearly euphoric, as is Bashar Assad, and our Israeli friends are very worried about the steadfastness and commitment of the United States concerning the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran.”
McCain also dismissed threats by Syria that it would strike at Israel in revenge for a US attack.
“Every time the US has acted decisively there is no retaliation against the retaliations, so I am not worried about the retaliations,” he said.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) lambasted Obama’s change of heart over a rapid strike as sending “mixed signals” to Iran and the world and called it a “clear failure of leadership,” the website Politico reported on Sunday, citing an interview with Fox News.
“If we can’t stop Syria on a red line with chemical weapons, how can anyone expect us to stop Iran with the red line on nuclear weapons?” he asked.
Washington holds President Bashar Assad’s regime responsible for a chemical weapons attack last month near Damascus that it said killed over 1,400 people. Obama has said that the US will launch a limited strike against Syria in response to the attacks, but first he will ask Congress for approval. That discussion is not expected to take place until next week.
“If he says this is as important as it is and sending so many mixed signals over really the last year and certainly over the last 10 days, this is a clear failure of leadership,” King said. “And if you feel so strongly about it and he doesn’t want to take the action himself then he should call us back into session tomorrow. We can’t be waiting nine, 10 days, and allowing Syria to prepare for this and sending such a mixed signal to the world and particularly to Iran.”