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. bailee

    I wish this guy would retire! He needs to go and live in one of his (7) houses that we heard about in the 2012 election, get a life of his own, and get out of politics! I totally agree with OMG-7 . . . get this fool of the stage!!!

    May 27, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. Marie MD

    Poor johnny, ever since his 2008 poor choice of a vp and the smack down he is just not the same.
    Leg them figure out what to do. We don't need to being "democracy" to people who don't know the meaning or will ever embrace it.
    Heck, we can't do it ourselves. Look at our congress.

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  3. jimmraz

    Ok Russia you keep selling & arming the Assad until next summer, then our USA contractors will come in and sell to Rebels . HAY!!! EVERYBODY ITS VIETNAM TACTICS ALL OVER AGAIN. Cha-Ching big business wins again .

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  4. Otis

    Mr. McCain, do NOT get us involved in another war in the Near East.

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  5. Gibby49

    All I can say is thank goodness McCain lost the 2008 presidential election.

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  6. BigdaddyUSA

    Warmonger McCain, your just not happy unless there is a war going on. Save our money and troops. Wait, i have an idea! Why dont you open like a lemonade booth but out the back door you hand out weapons to nice people only. And to keep thinks honest your wife can collect the money.

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  7. Lance Sephyr

    McCain is an Israhell-Firster who betrays America and Americans for his PRECIOUS (said like Golem in the Lord of the Rings), Israhell. Israhell leeches off the teat of the USA for fifty plus years like a parasitic vampire sucking blood thanks to Israhell's representatives in the Congress and the Senate like McCain. No wonder that Pat Buchanan called Congress "Israeli occupied territory'. It is time the doddering McCain and his even worse side-kick Joseph "call me AIPAC for short" Liebermann move into a retirement home in the country that they are loyal to that is called Isra-hell.....

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. TopView20

    John McCain you are ridiculous, worn-out war monger. YOU put a pistol in your belt and head to the front of the rebel battleline, and make your personal contribution. The USA has no business in Syria, arming soldiers in Syria, enforcing a no-fly zone, or any activity remotely related to the Syrian conflict. We should sit this out! The only exception should be all of our member of Congress who should be on the front line wearing florescent orange jumpsuits with no armor. Take Michelle Bachmann with you.

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  9. lynn

    And the beat goes on ..the media will not question the old man on it,they will take up his talking points as though we need another war.

    The rightwing is crying about Arabs,muslims,etc and how they are terrorists. Media will you ask john McCain how many refugees does he want to take into the United States and will he and the republicons be putting up at their many, homes.

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  10. buffalo

    God help us all! McCain lost his grip on reality quite a while ago. As his run for the Presidency clearly showed, not to mention the recent Benghazi non-event.

    May 27, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Poor old bitter McCain. He is not Our President or our Secretary of State. Can't believe he is not here honoring our military on Memorial Day. Yet he wants to send more of our young people to die for nothing. McCain never fought on the ground and has no idea what it is like. He is now the head of Native American Affairs and he can start by helping Native Americans in his home state. For the last time McCain it is a Civil War and maybe McCain will fight himself.

    May 27, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  12. joe

    OK, you grandstanding old coot. Tell us how you're going to pay for our increased intervention.

    May 27, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  13. faheem

    Senators McCain and Graham, the two most war mongering senators. Both always looking bitter and unhappy ( dont think Graham is capable of smiling!) and ready to go to war with anyone that they "imagine" threatens Israel or the US. Time for both to retire and let sanity prevail in the Senate .......

    May 27, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  14. Art

    Crank up those printing machines Ben. Don't let this earth sink, The USA must print it up.

    May 27, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  15. Gurgyl

    Why is this idiot going to Syria? Whose cost?? Pathetic idiot.

    May 27, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  16. NameTodd A

    Because of idiots like McCain were stuck with Barry the Muslim as president, McCain isn't a conservative he needs to join his wacko libtard daughters party

    May 27, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  17. zak

    USA is the global cancer they made up of WMD and destroyed Iraq now everyday 100 of pple dies in Iraq who cares , even the problem in Syria i wish a man come up and Shoot Mccain 30 bullet in his ugly mouth so next they don't go and destroy pple's country...

    May 27, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  18. Brad

    Where is the presidential leadership????

    May 27, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. Dave T

    You cannot light a dark room with more darkness, only light will do. Reagan used that "shining city on a hill" as part of our foreign policy back then. It was a smart move...Hate seems to behave like a cancer or virus. We need healthy cells to keep these cancers from metastasizing. Our nation must spread new positive concepts to light the world. Thus keep this disease of hate from infecting even more. While you are alive your immune system is constantly fighting many cancers and viruses. It is only when your body is weak, that its is taken over by these diseases. Thus if we were to create healthy economies that lowers unemployment and rebuilds decaying neighborhoods. There will be less of the hate disease from spreading.Let us not bash the other party with hate, but that of new hope. Then you light the world thus keep the hate disease from spreading even more.

    May 27, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    And how much is this lil junket costing the taxpayers.

    May 27, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  21. Rick McDaniel

    Not a fight the U.S. should enter. If the Arab States want to bring an end to it, then let them do it. We have been the world's policeman for far too long.

    May 27, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    There is just way too much drama with this old coot.

    May 27, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  23. Balls of Steel

    I have a question. WHY?

    May 27, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  24. downwithnazis

    Be careful, Senator.

    May 27, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  25. GIUK

    Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.

    May 27, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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