Appearing Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," McCain, R-Ariz., said Israeli and British intelligence suggesting Syrian President Bashar Assad has used forms of chemical weapons on his own people in the country's two-year civil war was only a matter of time.
"Our actions should not be dictated by whether Bashar Assad used these chemical weapons or not. Sooner or later he most likely would to maintain his hold on power," McCain said. "What's happened here is the president drew red lines about chemical weapons, thereby giving a green light to Bashar Assad to do anything short of that."
McCain expressed concerns the Syrian conflict could move into a new stage, one wherein ethnic groups loyal to Assad fall back on "plan B" and establish control of one portion of the country near the coast while rebel forces would control the remainder of the country, extending the conflict for "months and months."
McCain called on the Obama administration to establish a no-fly zone -- one he said could be established "without the use of manned aircraft." He also said the United States should be supplying rebels with weapons, a step the Obama administration has not taken for fear radical elements of the Syrian opposition would gain strength within the anti-Assad coalition.
With anti-American interests propping up the Assad regime -- McCain cited Russia and Iran specifically -- he said it's time the United States leveled the playing field before radical Islamists position themselves to take control after Assad falls.
"Iranians are on the ground in Syria and it's an unfair fight," McCain said. "And unless we change this balance of power by not using incrementalism there's every risk of a stalemate that could go on for months and months while the jihadists flood in."