Sen. John McCain says NATO might have to move from Libya to Israel’s back yard in Syria now that Qaddafi is gone.
"Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria," McCain said at the World Economic Forum in Jordan.
"The Assad regime should not consider that it can get away with mass murder,” he added. Qaddafi made that mistake and it cost him everything. Iran's rulers would be wise to heed similar counsel.”
McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and considered a hawk, did not specify whether he meant that NATO or American forces should take aim at Syria, where Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces have gunned down and tortured more than 3,000 protesters the past several months.
The Obama administration so far has made it clear it is not interested in more military interventions, particularly during a year before the next president election that will focus on economic issues and a growing isolationist sentiment among Americans.
However, McCain has argued that during his travels throughout the Middle East, “I have met with heads of state, young democratic activists [and] business leaders, and nearly every single one wants more American leadership and not less."
NATO intervention helped opposition forces topple Muammar Qaddafi, who was shot in the head late last week. NATO repeatedly bombed his compound in Tripoli and provided cover for opposition forces, on the grounds that Qaddafi was committing genocide against protesters.
As much as Assad is hated by Israel and by a growing number of American officials, there is concern that his ouster might be followed by the same kind of autocratic military regime that has replaced Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
Foreign intervention in Syria could set off a defensive war by Iran and Hizbullah, which along with pro-Syrian parties effectively dominated Lebanon.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have helped Assad suppress protests, and McCain has accused the Islamic republic of trying to “hijack” the Arab Spring uprisings.