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. Ireallyhps

    What a nut! I'm glad the voters saw what a warmongering idiot this guy is when he ran against Obama. He couldn't even pick a decent VP.

    May 27, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  2. Safejourney

    McCain, stay out of it. Sec of State Kerry can handle it. All you and your repubs want is More War and more loss of American lives. Americans are sick of your Repubs wars.

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

    My God. He lost the presidential election in 2008 and he still thinks he should have won. He thinks he DID win! Just what we DON'T need. A lone ranger playing politics in the Middle East.

    May 27, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  4. Lou Patrie

    I'm embarrassed to say McCain is my senator. Where does he get off going to Syria without the President's approval? He clearly usurped the President's authority by getting in the middle of this. He still thinks he won the election and he is some sort of President of something....these Republicans will do everything in their power to undermine President Obama. They will stop at nothing to discredit him.

    May 27, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. JOHN RONDINA

    He needs to mind his own business,

    May 27, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  6. Gopherit

    McCain would like to change the U.S. motto from E Pluribus Unum to E Pluribus Bomb 'Em! McCain is a warmonger first class, especially regarding countries which don't surrender to the U.S. agenda of worldwide domination.

    May 27, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. Ellie

    Kevin, this war would be entirely different from the conflict in the Libyan war. Syria has an air force and a much more organizied and well equipped army. We do not have to insert ourselves in every war on the globe. Let Russia express their displeasure with Bashar al-Assad like China did with North Korea. That certainly got Kim Un's attention. The US has done ENOUGH!

    May 27, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  8. Warren Peace

    Dear John:

    Not enough oil. Signed: Haliburton and friends.

    May 27, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  9. Van Krunk

    Noooooo, send Rodman!

    May 27, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  10. Hasan

    Mc Cain has committed an Illegal Act as he entered a country without visa and then he met people who support Cannibalism and LITERAL slaughter of innocent people ... Are we going to support these terrorists who are responsible for 911 and shedding of American blood in Boston, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.... etc...

    People like Mc Cain – will bring terrorists and terrorism to the US – with friend like him – US needs no enemies.

    May 27, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  11. James B

    You know all this is for is Isreal and the war profiteers right? I have Christian family over there and Bashar Assad is their only protection in Syria. Please folks wake up.

    May 27, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. larry wilson

    Where are all of the Arab countries? Why don't they send their troops and air forces to help? The woman should have said that those kids are going to take revenge on all of those that are killing them. Most of the world is not helping them in their fight but they single out us? McCain needs to stay out of their fight and shut the hell up.

    May 27, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. RSVP

    Did McCain fly over on a commercial airliner, a government plane or one of his elite friends' jets? Did he pay personally for this trip or was it at the government's expense? Did the president authorize this trip or did John just decided to go without getting permission first?

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

    Kevin, this war would be entirely different from the conflict in the Libyan war. Syria has an air force and a much more organizied and well equipped army. We do not have to insert ourselves in every war on the globe. Let Russia express their displeasure with Bashar al-Assad like China did with North Korea. That certainly got Kim Un's attention. The US has done ENOUGH!

    May 27, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    Why???? Idiot. Very stupid idiot. No more rethuglicans. Period. These animals destroy this nation. Enough.

    May 27, 2013 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  16. markiejoe

    Question for Sen. McCain: Why the U.S.? Why does the U.S. ALWAYS have to be the nation that supplies rebels with weapons? Why does it ALWAYS have to be the United States that supplies rebels with air support? Why is it ALWAYS the U.S. that McCain calls upon to put troops on the ground?

    There are many other countries in the world who are (a) perfectly capable of supplying all of the above to rebel groups, and (b) who are closer to the war-torn countries that need the help and thus in a better position logisitically to intervene. Why must it ALWAYS be the U.S., Sen. McCain?

    May 27, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  17. Jerry Okamura

    Is there a war that McCain does not like?

    May 27, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. John Maroney

    He wants the U.S. to help end the war? How about we stop funding the terrorists. Pretty sure the war would be over by the end of the week.

    May 27, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  19. Revolution

    The next fight for freedom will be in the USA

    May 27, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  20. Bluto

    John McCain is a F00L. The US should stop supporting the Syrian rebels. The reason is simple: the Syrian rebels are mostly an Al-Quaeda affiliate group of of thugs.

    May 27, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  21. Tony

    He picks Memorial Day to visit? Really?

    May 27, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  22. Mad D'imon

    This short poem is dedicated to the Senator McCain and his mission. Nice try..

    In the shadow of all my dreams
    Deeper, deeper in blue
    We are falling with winds
    Like things we’ll never do

    I know a perfect place
    Looking like a perfect lie
    Where birds never sing
    Where flowers always die

    Circles of the dirty Earth
    Looking like a butterfly
    I know you’ll never see
    I know you’ll never die

    I found the perfect place
    The shadow of all my dreams
    I see on your perfect face
    A play of your silly glimpse

    May 27, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  23. MBSeattle

    john McCain has never seen a war he did not want to drag his country into. Syria is a mess. Hezbolough is siding with te rebels and Iraqis are siding with Asade. Isreal is warring with Hezbolough. Which side should we be on? This is more quick sand.
    Where does the money come from for such a venture? John your party is a fiscal wreck.
    We have a Stae Department and a dues paying member (sometimes) of the United Nations. It is cheaper to use these tools than to contine to spend our treasure. Send in the Chineese. Pay attention to Iran and North Korea.

    By the way John no drones.

    May 27, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  24. bombastus

    I am sure McCain's heart is in the right place but the Obama team is right deciding to go very cautiously. No doubt if we went in Assad would be out within days. Then half the Arab world would hate us more and provide more fuel to recruit more terrorists. Do we know who would take over? Would they be any better than Assad? Our recent track record is not too good when we interfere with internal affairs. Afghanistan and Iraq have been total cans of worms. What did work is kicking Hussein out of Kuwait. Lesson learned? Defending an ally from an invader worked out OK but when stepping into an internal struggle we are batting zero for 2.

    May 27, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  25. dick cheney

    old fool..he shud retire and continue with his hobby...growing turnips.

    May 27, 2013 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
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