SOUTHERN SHUNEH, Jordan — Sen. John McCain said Sunday that military action to protect civilians in Syria might be considered now that NATO's air campaign in Libya is ending.
However, President Barack Obama's administration has made clear it has no appetite for military intervention in Syria — a close ally of Iran that sits on Israel's border — and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted Sunday that the Syrian opposition has not called for such action against President Bashar Assad's regime.
"Now that military operations in Libya are ending, there will be renewed focus on what practical military operations might be considered to protect civilian lives in Syria," McCain said at the World Economic Forum in Jordan. "The Assad regime should not consider that it can get away with mass murder. Gadhafi made that mistake, and it cost him everything," he added, referring to ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was captured and killed last week by fighters loyal to the new government.
It was not clear whether the Republican senator from Arizona was referring to American or NATO military action against the Syrian regime, which has waged a seven-month crackdown on opposition protesters and killed about 3,000 people, according to the United Nations.
However, international intervention, such as the NATO action in Libya that helped topple Gadhafi, is all but out of the question in Syria. Washington and its allies have shown little inclination for getting involved militarily in another Arab nation in turmoil. There also is real concern that Assad's ouster would spread chaos around the region.
Syria is a geographical and political keystone in the heart of the Middle East, bordering five countries with which it shares religious and ethnic minorities and, in Israel's case, a fragile truce. Its web of alliances extends to Lebanon's Hezbollah movement and Iran's Shiite theocracy. Destabilized Syria could send unsettling ripples through the region.
Most Syrian opposition groups, inside and outside Syria, also have said they oppose military intervention and have urged diplomatic pressure on Assad.
Mohammad Habash, a member of Syria's outgoing parliament, said military action will bring only "catastrophes, wars and blood."