Escalation: Senators Call for U.S. Military Action in Syria

McCain, Graham: 'The time has come' to oust Assad.

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Two GOP senators who called for U.S. military intervention in Libya before President Obama green-lighted that mission are now calling for something similar in Syria.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain of Arizona and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina weighed in late Wednesday on the bloody clash between Syrian government forces and opposition fighters. The hawkish duo's call for U.S. military and other assistance for Syrian rebel groups was cast in a warning: The struggle is becoming "an armed conflict" that could be worse than Libya's civil unrest.

"In Libya, the threat of imminent atrocities in Benghazi mobilized the world to act. Such atrocities are now a reality in Homs and other cities all across Syria," McCain and Graham said in a joint statement. "More than 6,000 lives have been lost, and there is no end in sight."

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The senators dubbed actions taken so far by Washington and the West as "increasingly divorced from the reality on the ground in Syria." They blasted Russia and China for blocking moves at the United Nations designed to squeeze Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying those to nations are "doing their utmost to help him crush the Syrian opposition."

"The question for the international community, especially for the United States, is: Are we equally committed to ensuring that Assad's opponents emerge victorious in Syria?" McCain and Graham said. U.S. officials should "rule out no option that could help saves lives," and help both "political and military" rebel factions "fight back against Assad's forces," they said.

[See photos of the crackdown in Syria.]

The McCain-Graham call for military assistance comes days after President Obama renewed his statement that Assad must leave office.

Notably, the senators' statement never mentions the Obama administration by name. Also notably, it calls for any U.S. action to be "coordinated with our friends and allies" in the European Union, the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Turkey, which is an increasingly important diplomatic force in the region.

McCain and Graham also put the Syrian crisis in a broader strategic context for Washington, saying toppling Assad and his forces would be "a strategic defeat" for Iran. "The time has come," the duo said, "when all options must be on the table to force Assad to leave power."

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