Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called Monday for a coalition force, backed by 10,000 American troops, to defeat the Islamic State group once and for all.
“We can beat anybody, much less ISIS,” the senator told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Mac & Gaydos.
McCain minced no words, saying he does not doubt the militant group has American targets in mind and will move to strike them in attacks similar to those that left more than 120 dead and nearly triple that amount injured in Paris on Friday.
“Would we rather fight them there or in Phoenix,” he gave as a reason for once again deploying American soldiers to combat terrorism in the Middle East.
McCain called for a Middle Eastern-led coalition that would, ideally, sweep through Iraq and Syria to remove ISIS influence before getting to a major source of the terrorist group’s power: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad his nation’s ongoing civil war.
“He’s one of the great butchers in history,” McCain said of Assad, who has allegedly bombed his own people in an attempt to remain in power.
The Syrian civil war has torn the nation apart. It has killed more than 250,000 people. It has left 11 million uprooted from their homes, while allowing ISIS militants to carve out significant parts of Syria and Iraq for their would-be caliphate.
McCain also put the blame on President Barack Obama, who pulled nearly all of the American soldiers out of Iraq following years of conflict. The action created a power vacuum that ISIS and others are fighting to fill.
“We lost in Iraq because we left,” the senator said, comparing the situation to leaving Germany, Japan, Korea or Bosnia to fend for themselves after wars. The United States left troops in each of those nations following the formal end of hostilities.
McCain said the United States must seek a coalition led by Middle Eastern countries, not one that results in a partnership with Russia, as the country has allied itself with Assad in an effort to become a power player in the region.
“What [President Vladimir] Putin wants is to be a major player in the Middle East,” McCain said.
Because the coalition would be led by other countries, American troops would be allowed to slip into a support role, McCain said.
“I can assure you, the loss of American lives would be minimal,” he said.
Europe and Syria’s neighbors, meanwhile, are struggling to cope with the worst migrant crisis since World War II.
On Monday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and multiple other governors said they would no longer accept refugees in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks. McCain stood by their decision.
“I can’t vouch for the vetting process and, until I can vouch for that vetting process, then I would not take any refugees,” he said, adding that he does not doubt ISIS leaders have told fighters to enter countries via the refugee pipeline with assignments to contact them later.
While McCain said the U.S. has been successful in foiling several plots over the years, he said the “paper tiger” of ISIS is still a concern, but one that can be beaten.
“We can win, we should win and we must win because we have that obligation to our citizenry,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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