Former US President Bill Clinton has taken a swipe at the Obama administration’s policy on Syria, saying Washington’s failure to intervene in the conflict there would be “a bad mistake.”

Speaking in a question-and-answer session with Republican Senator John McCain in Manhattan on Tuesday, the former Democratic president said any US commander-in-chief would risk sounding like a “total fool” if they let public opinion get in the way of intervening in a crisis abroad, Politico reported on Thursday.

“Some people say, ‘Okay, see what a big mess it is? Stay out!’ I think that’s a big mistake. I agree with you about this,” Clinton told McCain.

McCain, who recently took a trip to Syria through Turkey and met some militant commanders there, has been a vocal critic of Obama’s cautious policy on Syria. He has asked the White House to arm the militants with missiles.

“We could use our stand-off weapons, such as cruise missiles, to target Assad’s aircraft and ballistic missile launchers on the ground,” McCain said last week.

Now that the Syrian forces have seized the strategic town of Qusair and launched a massive assault on the militants to regain the full control of the northern city of Aleppo, internal pressure is mounting on Obama to directly get involved in the conflict by sending weapons to the militants.

Syria has been gripped by a deadly unrest since March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of government forces, have been killed in the violence.

Damascus says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

The Syrian government says the West and its regional allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are supporting the militants.

Several international human rights organizations have accused militants operating in Syria of committing war crimes.

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