McCain visits rebels in Syria
May 27th, 2013
01:22 PM ET
11 months ago

McCain visits rebels in Syria

(CNN) - Sen. John McCain visited rebels in Syria on Monday, his communications director confirmed to CNN, making the Arizona Republican the highest ranking elected official from the United States to visit the war-torn country.

Brian Rogers confirmed a report that originally appeared on The Daily Beast, which indicated McCain entered Syria through Turkey, and remained in the country for several hours.

Related: Worries about Syrian civil war on the rise, poll shows

While in Syria, McCain met with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, according to Mouaz Moustafa with the Washington-based Syrian Emergency Task Force that was involved in planning the trip. He spent about an hour meeting with Free Syrian Amry commanders from various parts of the country including Aleppo, Homs, and Idlib.

McCain is the leading voice in Congress for a greater U.S. role in ending Syria's civil war, which has been waged for more than two years. He has suggested establishing "safe zones" for Syria's rebels and taking out the regime's air assets, along with providing lethal weapons to Syria's opposition.

In their meeting with McCain, leaders of the Syrian rebel forces pressed the United States to provide them with weapons to continue their fight against Syrian President Bashar al Assad. They also called for establishing no-fly zones and for airstrikes against Assad's regime, according to the Daily Beast's report.

His visit came shortly before U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was scheduled to meet in Paris regarding Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. For months during the Syrian war, Russia appeared to be supporting the country's president, Bashar al-Assad. But that tide seems to be turning, at least gaining some wiggle room for the Russians to help broker an end to the violence.

Moustafa of the Syrian Emergency Task Force called McCain's visit "an incredibly important trip and trips like this need to happen more frequently.

"It was very important because one of the biggest arguments against supporting the opposition is not knowing who they are. So being able to sit face-to face with these commanders brings a much higher level of confidence in who they are," he said.

The U.N. estimates that more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed since anti-government protests in March 2011 led to a fierce government crackdown, an armed uprising and a bloody civil war. The war has uprooted a quarter of the country's 22 million civilians.

Republicans and Democrats alike have called on President Barack Obama to ramp up support for Syrian rebels, who now receive nonlethal aid like food and medicine from the United States. In early April that aid was stepped up to include equipment such as body armor, night vision goggles and other military equipment that is considered defensive in nature.

Long an advocate of a more pronounced American effort in Syria, McCain has previously visited camps in Jordan that have harbored massive waves of Syrian refugees. He described one of those camps last month on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"This woman who was a schoolteacher said, 'Sen. McCain, do you see these children here? They're going to take revenge on those people who refused to help them,' " McCain recalled. "They're angry and bitter. And that legacy could last for a long time too, unless we assist them."

But others, including lawmakers from both parties and Obama's administration, have said American arms flowing into Syria could end up in the hands of terrorists.

Officials also say that Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah units could be operating in the country and potentially infiltrating the rebel opposition.

– CNN's Salma Abdelaziz contributed to this report


Filed under: John McCain • Syria
soundoff (639 Responses)
  1. Dennis

    Come in John let this one go.

    May 27, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  2. Secession is the Answer

    With luck they might behead him and we'll be rid of a senile fool.

    May 27, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. john west

    McCain need to leave things alone, or he and his cronies to pay for all this "support".

    May 27, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  4. Alex

    Good to see John there and he will tell us what is going to work. Thank god for politicians like this that have no fear and get right into the situation.
    Good Work.

    May 27, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  5. ALLuh

    What a war mongering old fool, we saw your best judgement in the form of Sara Palin, thanks, but no thanks, get in a box already.

    May 27, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  6. Betty

    Vile cnn liberal trash talkers can be big on text – try talking to him face to face – you're a bunch on whimps – none of you would have lasted a week as a POW- no mattet what you think of him speak it w respect.

    May 27, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  7. ziggydoda

    Thank God he did not become President!

    May 27, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  8. alicia

    He is an idiot, we can't go there, this is a religious problem between Syrians, even if we help, they will blame us and come after us. We better spend our money here on health and education.

    May 27, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  9. Ben Edwards

    So if John McCain is so convinced that the Syrian rebels aren't a bunch of Islamic extremists, then why don't he go fight Bashar al-Asad instead of risking the lives of U.S, airmen?

    May 27, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  10. Mikie

    McCain enjoy the Tax payers $$'s and STAY HOME! You are not welcome in Syria the US has no business being there. They will settle their issues without US $$

    May 27, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  11. Judi Powell

    This guy is out of his mind!!!!!! He has no authority to do such things....but I know...IOKIYAR

    May 27, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  12. Khagaraj Sommu

    While at it McCain should also slip into Benghazi and bring those" freedom fighters" together and instruct them in the practice of democracy.During his last visit to Libya he was hailed as a hero.

    May 27, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. dont be a sucker

    You partisan hacks are hilarious

    "John mccain and the gop are evil warmongers"

    I guess they missed the part of the article that said Both gop's AND dems want barrack to send military hardware

    Partisan Hacks Hate Facts

    May 27, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. RSVP

    I think McCain is trying to "one up" Dennis Rodman.

    May 27, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  15. WatchDawg

    I wonder who is paying for this little junket across the pond? McCain? Taxpayers?

    May 27, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  16. anahadwolves

    Please explain why this political hack is inserting himself into America's foreign policy? He lost the election, yet, refuses to go away? Perhaps a wooden stake is required in what passes for his heart.

    May 27, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  17. Candyboy

    Maybe senator Mc Cain can negotiate the release of two Christian Bishops kidnapped over 2 month ago by the same terrorists that he intends to meet.
    Or maybe the terrorist will kidnap him too and join the 2 bishops.

    May 27, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  18. Obahtr

    At least somebody has the guts, and wouldn't you know it's a rep.

    May 27, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  19. Odum Barkley

    Thank God John McCain was never elected president. His overwhelming desire to keep America involved in Mideast wars is horrible and inexplicable. I am a conservative. I don't know what John McCain is. I have come to believe he is totally crazy.

    May 27, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  20. RJ

    John "kill em all" McCain simply can not abide the U.S. NOT being involved in a war. I'm sure he cra-ps his pants daily fuming over the troop withdrawls in Afghanistan.

    May 27, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  21. Anastasia Beverhausen

    The man who chose Sarah Palin is going to Syria?

    May 27, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  22. wade

    Which ones? the main problem is there are too many fractured factions including some terrorist. So good luck with that.

    May 27, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. JOE B

    We can start connecting Americans with our soldiers by airing a weekly show that depicts the horrors going on in the Middle East. This will be a show that examines how the rich have control our politicians and tell them what nations the US is to attack and how it benefits the rich. The show also needs to focus in on the soldiers and those that are killed and how the families work to heal themselves while the rich plan for more war and throwing more soldiers in the line of fire. The truth is both political parties are owned by the rich and have no intentions of connecting the dots by allowing such a program to be aired on television.

    May 27, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  24. Love

    The international community has been requesting Al Sadat to step out of power, he did not and see what happen. Humanity calls for international intervention to stop the carnage in Syria. How did start? Al Sadat, he is guilty.

    May 27, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  25. FubarObama

    Our Nobel peace prize winner divider in chief spent his time on the golf course

    May 27, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
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