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McCain blasts US-Russia agreement on Syria, says it won't shift momentum on battlefield

Senator John McCain on Tuesday blasted the agreement reached between the U.S. and Russia for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons, saying that the Obama administration backed into the compromise and that it won’t end the country’s bloody civil war.

“I wish I could see the recent agreement between Russia and the United States to rid the Assad regime of its chemical weapons as major breakthrough,” the Republican senator from Arizona told the Council of Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. “Unfortunately, I cannot.”

The agreement – which is being pursued through U.N. diplomatic channels -- came after President Barack Obama asked Senate leaders to delay a vote on authorizing U.S. military action in Syria, which has been met by staunch opposition from the public and Congress.

A chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 outside Damascus left more than 1,400 people dead, including 400 children, the Associated Press reported, citing U.S. figures.

“Let’s recall that this Russian initiative first arose as both houses of Congress appeared ready to reject the President’s proposed military strikes in Syria, which called into question how credible that threat of force really was,” McCain said. “So it is hard to maintain that the Administration entered into this agreement from a position of strength.”

McCain argued that the agreement does not strengthen the military capabilities of moderate Syrian opposition groups, nor will it “shift the momentum on the battlefield”enough to create conditions that could lead to Assad's removal.

“It will not stop Assad and his forces from fighting. It will not stop Iran from fighting. It will not stop Hezbollah troops, who have invaded Syria by the thousands, from fighting. And it will not stop Russia from continuing to send weapons and other military assistance to the Assad regime,” McCain said.