Senator McCain urges change in American strategy in Middle East

Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), recently delivered an impassioned opening statement this week as he chaired a hearing on U.S. military strategy in the Middle East.

McCain started by paying homage to last week’s loss of Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler, an Army veteran of 14 combat deployments in the Middle East. McCain said his sacrifice is an important reminder of the high stakes of crafting good U.S. policy on issues in the Middle East.

The Obama administration's strategy for dealing with upheaval in the region wrong, McCain said. McCain further dismissed the idea that ISIL fighters are the main threat the U.S. faces in the Middle East.

“A policy of ‘ISIL first’ fails to understand that ISIL...is actually just a symptom of a deeper problem: the struggle for power and sectarian identity now raging across the Middle East — the epicenter of which is Iraq and Syria," the Senator said. "That is why ISIL exists today with the strength that it does have, and this problem will only get worse the longer this conflict rages on.”

McCain called on the Obama administration to take solid military action in the region instead of relying on diplomatic solutions. Without military power, he said, potential solutions and deals essentially have no teeth.

“There can be no diplomatic solution without leverage, and there is a clear military dimension to this problem,” McCain said, addressing the Senate committee. “Secretary Kerry can take all the trips he wants to Geneva, but unless the military balance of power changes on the ground, diplomacy will achieve nothing.”

Senator McCain concluded that unless the president addresses Russia’s growing role in the conflict and the security and social threats springing from power struggles in the region, U.S. policy there is doomed to fail.

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