WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and his government has been "shameful and disgraceful" in its response to the carnage in Syria, US Senator John McCain said Sunday, slamming Washington's inaction on the issue.

"The fact is that the United States has played no leadership role," McCain, a veteran senator and former Republican presidential candidate, told CBS television, referring to efforts to halt Damascus's crackdown on opposition.

"Fourteen thousand people have been massacred by (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad. The United States of America's performance so far has been shameful and disgraceful," said McCain.

"The president of the United States should be speaking out for the people of Syria," he added.

McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a leading voice in Congress on military and security matters, has been arguing for months that Washington should deliver weapons to aid embattled rebel forces in Syria.

He renewed those calls Sunday as former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, an international envoy on the Syria crisis, conceded that his efforts so far have failed to end nearly 16 months of bloodshed in Syria.

"We should get arms to them so that we can balance the forces," McCain told the "Face the Nation" news program.

"It's not a fair fight, Russian arms are pouring in, Iranians are on the ground and people are being massacred, tortured, raped and murdered as a matter of policy by Bashar al-Assad," McCain said.

"We need to establish a sanctuary so that they can organize, they can resist and they can prevail," the lawmaker added.

"I believe that some day Bashar al-Assad will go," he said. "My question to the secretary of state (Hillary Clinton) and the president of the United States is how many have to die before we take action to help these people?"