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      McCain and Graham Slam Syria Agreement

      "Assad will deceive the world," say Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham of the U.S.-Russia agreement on Syria's chemical weapons.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 9/15/2013, 5:30 AM

      Kerry and Lavrov
      Kerry and Lavrov
      Reuters

      Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham on Saturday criticized the U.S.-Russia agreement to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons, Fox News reported.

      The two called the agreement “meaningless” and said it sends the wrong signal to Iran, which is suspected of  building a nuclear weapon.

      The Republican senators said the framework agreement reached by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is toothless without the UN Security Council Resolution that threatens the use of force should Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad fail to comply.

      The U.S. and Russia reached the agreement to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014, and impose UN penalties if the Assad government fails to comply.

      “Assad will use the months and months afforded to him to delay and deceive the world using every trick in Saddam Hussein's playbook,” the Republican senators said in a statement.

      “It requires a willful suspension of disbelief to see this agreement as anything other than the start of a diplomatic blind alley, and the Obama administration is being led into it by Bashar Assad and [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” they added.

      The senators, who visited Syria in May, reiterated their position that the United States should arm Assad opposition forces in the roughly two-year-long civil war, in which roughly 100,000 people have been killing and millions have fled.

      “The only way this underlying conflict can be brought to a decent end is by significantly increasing our support to moderate opposition forces in Syria,” the statement said. "We must strengthen their ability to degrade Assad's military advantage, change the momentum on the battlefield, and thereby create real conditions for a negotiated end to the conflict."

      McCain has long been a vocal opponent of Obama's policy on Syria and has several times called on the president to take action in the civil war in Syria.

      It remains unclear whether Syria had signed onto Saturday's agreement, which requires the Middle East country to submit a full inventory of its stocks within the next week.

      Under the framework agreement, international inspectors are to be on the ground in Syria by November. During that month, they are to complete their initial assessment and all mixing and filling equipment for chemical weapons is to be destroyed.

      Non-compliance by the Assad government or any other party would be referred to the 15-nation UN Security Council by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. That group oversees the Chemical Weapons Convention, which Syria this week agreed to join.

      The U.S. and Russia will press for a Security Council resolution enshrining the chemical weapons agreement under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can authorize both the use of force and non-military measures.

      But Russia, which already has rejected three resolutions on Syria, would be sure to veto military action.

      President Obama several weeks ago said the U.S. must launch a punitive military strike against Assad over the August 21 chemical attack that killed nearly 1,500 of his own people.