WASHINGTON, July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday the West had missed its chance to head off the growing influence of Islamist extremists in Syria.
McCain, a longtime proponent of military aid for the Syrian rebels, said the conflict had evolved into a regional proxy war in which the prospects of a popular new government replacing President Bashir Assad's regime were fading.
"This is now becoming a proxy fight between different interests in the Middle East and outside the Middle East, including significant involvement by the Russians, while we sit by and watch these people being massacred," McCain said on CNN's "State of the Union."
McCain said the tepid response to the rebellion by the Obama administration was "a disgrace," but he was hopeful the White House was seeing the writing on the wall and would come up with a new strategy because, "The heart and soul of the Arab world is now in a situation that could lead to chaos for a long period of time."
"I hope that at least the options are being explored," McCain said. "The Middle East is erupting into conflict which will sooner rather than later affect American national security interests."
McCain proposed increasing communications with Russia over its military support for Assad and speaking out more on alleged human rights violations by the Kremlin.