OTR Interviews

McCain on ISIS advances on Kobani and limited success of airstrikes: 'If it wasn't so tragic, this would almost be a farce'

Sen. John McCain on the looming threat of ISIS taking over Kobani and committing atrocities, plus the threat of ISIS at US borders


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 9, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: The Pentagon is warning Kobani will most likely fall to ISIS. Why isn't the U.S. doing more to protect Kobani? Secretary of State John Kerry saying that is not the main goal of the U.S.-led coalition.


JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: As horrific as it is to watch in real time what's happening in Kobani, it's also important to remember, you have to step back and understand the strategic objective and where we have begun over the course of the last weeks.


VAN SUSTEREN: Today, Senator John McCain tweeting, "Sad to see Secretary Kerry try to downplay impact of impending atrocities in Kobani by murderous terrorism army, ISIS."

And Senator John McCain joins us. Good evening, sir.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Seems like they are giving up on Kobani. Now, with Greg Palkot's report, there's fighting between the Kurds and the Turks. It sounds like this is just spreading and getting worse.

MCCAIN: Well, the Kurds, obviously, are very unhappy. This is kind of demonstrations within Turkey that are serious but they are not warfare. But for John Kerry to dismiss the deaths of thousands of people and then our Pentagon touting 14 strikes, 14 strikes, in Kobani or the outskirts, because since we have no one on ground, there is no way of really identifying targets. And the brave Kurds, and I mean the Peshmerga, are very brave fighters. They don't have the military capability, the arms and equipment that the ISIS has because ISIS has ours and we refuse to send weapons directly to the Kurds and the Peshmerga so they can fight better. I mean, I'm beginning to believe, if it wasn't so tragic, this would almost be farce.

VAN SUSTEREN: It seems to me, something bizarre about the fact the secretary of state is making it his mission, Kobani is falling. He said that's now not our goal. I don't know, I though the goal was to protect ISIS from spreading. He says it's not our goal. Meanwhile, we are doing 14 air strikes. If 14 air strikes don't work, maybe we have the wrong strategy. We know one thing, it's getting worse.

MCCAIN: Let me point out, too, I have strong disagreements with Erdogan on a number of issues, including Israel. But he's right in this respect. He is demanding that there be a buffer inside Syria on the Turkish border and a no-fly zone for Bashar al Assad. Because what we are doing is immoral. We are allowing Bashar Assad to destroy the Free Syrian Army. Every time we bomb ISIS, Bashar al Assad moves in and attacks with more intensity.

By the way, these are the same ones -- we are training 5,000 of them. We are going to send them back into Syria to be bombed by Bashar al Assad. This is really as convoluted and as immoral as I have seen the United States of America do.

VAN SUSTEREN: What do you make of what Vice President Biden said about Turkey, that the border between Turkey and Syria has appeared to be a sieve where fighters have been going back and forth? Was Vice President Biden right about Turkey?

MCCAIN: I think there are border control issues with Turkey and, as I say, some areas we are in disagreement. But Bashar al Assad is right, we have two enemies, ISIS and -- excuse me, Erdogan is right, we have two enemies, Bashar al Assad and ISIS. We cannot do it sequentially. We have to do it together. If we are going to help the Free Syrian Army, let's help them and not play this game where 14 air strikes is supposed to have some kind of impact on what -- look, I was in the Vietnam War, a place called Kasan (ph), surrounded by North Vietnamese. There was round-the- clock bombing day and night by B-52s. And we -- still it was a near thing.

VAN SUSTEREN: I didn't get -- I'm trying to figure out -- Vice President Biden seemed to step up the pressure on Turkey and had to apologize. You seem to say there are some things you agreed with the president of Turkey on.


VAN SUSTEREN: I'm trying to figure out where Turkey is in this. Was Vice President Biden, was he right to speak out about this?

MCCAIN: I don't think so. I think it could be done in other ways. What he did was alienate both the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the Turks. He had a trifecta there. We have been unhappy with a lot of things that the Turks have been doing. And there's been rich Saudis, not the government of Saudi Arabia, that funneled money into ISIS and al Qaeda and others. The same thing with UAE and Qatar. We can't afford to alienate them. The vice president of the United States shouldn't say it publicly.

But finally, Bashar al Assad will join -- excuse me, I keep getting -- mixing up. Erdogan and the Turks will join the fight if we will set up the buffer zone and a no-fly zone, then aim our objectives at ISIS and Bashar al Assad to take them both down. Remember, Bash Assad has massacred nearly 200,000 people.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is Secretary Kerry on board for that, or not?

MCCAIN: You know, we keep hearing there's a great debate in the White House. I have heard that for so many years, it grows tiresome. They tell me privately, hey, we are working on it, don't worry, we'll get it down, and it never gets done. I'm getting a little cynical.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.