McCain visits rebels in Syria
May 27th, 2013
01:22 PM ET
10 years 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.

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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. CB FL

    When will he learn we are not the worlds police.

    May 27, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Jimmie Russells

    Now this old piece of trash is associating with al Qaeda operatives? VOTE HIM OUT

    May 27, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. wolf776

    I sure hope he's not going to have lunch with that guy in the video

    May 27, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  4. wellhellothere

    Oh, John. Ever the MAVERICK! So did you tell your president or did you go rogue again? OR are you trying to upstage Dennis Rodman? Fine. Just don't get yourself killed.

    May 27, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  5. James

    Howcome if someone meets with Hamas he goes to jail but a US senator is free to meet with Al-Qaeda affiliates?

    May 27, 2013 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. Cynical View

    Probably aked to go by the President; McCain doesn't seem the type to independently exceed his particular mandate and start doing international politics without prior Executive Branch approval.

    May 27, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  7. ST

    Why didn't he put on his uniform and fight along with them, if at all he really cares about them.

    May 27, 2013 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  8. us_1776


    There is no "good" side here.

    Which "bad" side you want to support?


    May 27, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. jnpa

    The warmonger is at it again!

    May 27, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  10. mpt1123


    May 27, 2013 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  11. Rod

    I hope they keep...Wish Lindsey Graham had gone with. We wouldn't miss them. Heck, I would pay the room and board if they kept them.

    May 27, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  12. RSVP

    He's delusional. He actually thinks he's the Defense Secretary. What a warmonger idiot. This is enough to get us involved in the war.

    May 27, 2013 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  13. charles

    This guy is a war monger. Its good he never became a president. He pushed for intervention in Libya, the replacement was Alhayeeda and now they are now crying Benghazi. Our bridges are collapsing, schools are in disrepair. many people are not insured nor do they afford to put food on their table or pay their mortgages. We are still running around sounding war drums. the only beneficiary is the Chinese, they have invested nothing and they are reaping the benefits.

    May 27, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. ray

    I hope he was authorized by the president to make a visit.

    May 27, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  15. Kyle

    This is a spit in the face to the American people.

    May 27, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. EP

    The trip itself is a waste of money, let alone his plan for intervention.

    May 27, 2013 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  17. rightospeak

    McCain needs to be shipped to Israel ASAP before he does any more damage. He took part in war crimes in Libya and should to be tried in Hague along with Rasmussen, Sarkozy and others. He wants more wars to get oligarchs richer while the American taxpayer foots the bill. He does not represent interests of the American public.
    His contribution to the decline of America , to be perceived as the Evil Empire is outstanding.

    May 27, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. dscon

    This RINO has lost it with ALL the pols in DC.

    May 27, 2013 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |

    HE must very rich senator to go out the country

    May 27, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. JohnRJohnson

    Do you think McCain realizes that nobody he meets with in Syria is going to tell him the truth? To them, McCain looks like Daddy Warbucks, with a suitcase full of cash and weapons. McCain is an idiot. Thank God he wasn't elected president.

    May 27, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  21. Kowalski

    When is McCain going to learn that we don't pal around with terrorists.

    May 27, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. Gary

    Most of Americans go to places like Niagra Falls, Disneyland, the beach or The Grand Canyon for our holidays. McCain enjoys touring war zones.

    May 27, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  23. Bob

    Sorry John, but this one war you won't sell the American people on. We know far too much about the terrorist, war crime committing, "free Syrian Army."

    May 27, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. Jeffro211

    Unfortunately McCain has shown he will deal with the devil in the name of "righteous" military conquest. Go ahead McCain, arm Al Qaeda with lethal weaponry. That will give you and your chicken hawk cronies an excuse for more conquest while sending other people's sons and daughters off to suffer and die in the name of your righteous cause.

    May 27, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Tim

    Why do we need to be involved with this?

    May 27, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
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