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. Linda

    McCain will most likely blame President Obama if the U.S. gets involved in Syria & it doesn't work out gloriously in the Republicans' minds.

    May 27, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  2. shannon2

    Dude. If Sen McCain had been elected President he would have had a hissy fit if some idiot Senator got involved in another nation's Civil war without White House approval.

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

    Isn't he the same dummy who was showing Prince Harry around Washington and discussing land mine removal? Now he wants to send lethal weapons to Syria?

    May 27, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. KEVIN

    John McCain = Top salesman for private military contracting companies

    May 27, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Dianne

    I certainly hope Obama has enough sense not to listen to him. WE DON'T NEED ANOTHER WAR PERIOD!!!!!! Its bad enough giving them billions of dollars in aid. We have our own people right here at home.

    May 27, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  6. DAG

    "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."

    This is all we need to know – we need to stay completely out of this. Both sides hate us – no matter the outcome, Syria will be staunchly anti-American. If we don't help, they will hate us for not helping; if we do help, they'll just find another convenient excuse to hate us. They are going to kill someone, might as well be each other as far as I'm concerned...

    May 27, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  7. Ralph Hagen

    McCain is another war bird whot hinks were suppose to be the worlds police. What we need to do is keep our nose out of everyone elses business. McCain and all the others think their some kind of greek gods who rule the world and we should follow. It's time to get rid of a;ll these old timers and bring in new blood like the guy down the street. But without all the Tea Party crappp that goes with that clan.

    May 27, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. CNNReviewer

    The President and the military eliminated George Paton because he was transfixed on waging war with Russia at the end of WWII. Truman recalled McArthur as he disobeyed orders to advance his goal of escalating our military operations. On and on we have men of rank that had to be eliminated to prevent another unnecessary war.

    Senator McCain, you belong on this list. The USA cannot produce lasting benefits in another nation. Arab nations will forever be at war. How old are you? Haven't you noticed these obvious facts?

    May 27, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. dick Delson

    He should go to Alaska to catch up with Sarah THE BIMBO who cost him the election.

    May 27, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Howard

    We armed Binladin in Afghanistan. That didn't work too good, Maybe those who don't remember the past are doomed to make the same mistakes in the future.

    May 27, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. Boostboy

    That's all we need is him 'representing" the U.S. The guy spent too much time in the monkey box, and his driveway doesn't go all the way to the house if you get my meaning. Ugh...

    May 27, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  12. Carey

    NO TERM LIMITS??? Are you high??? We don't need people who don't give a crap who lives or dies anymore, running around talking war with crazy people.

    May 27, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  13. Peace

    Getting involved with the rebels means that the fight against the regime will spill over in other neighboring countries will most likely not lead to a solution but in fact more fighting between the Sunnis and Shiites. But by the U.S not helping at all will continue to see innocent civilians killed by the Regime. It is a very complicated situation in which no one will stand victorious. Bashar must go, but who will replace him will be up to the Syrian people to decide which will lead to more sectarian war.

    May 27, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  14. vidal808

    What is he doing in Syria? He should be home and make sure his cronies in the a Republican Party do some work instate of obstructing everything our President is proposing. Another prove of the Repubs disfunctional conduct. Get rid of the in 2014 or sooner.

    May 27, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  15. Benedict McCain

    Oh look, another traitor from the Republican Party putting political points above the foreign policy of our nation. Undermining our armed forces by grandstanding around the world.

    May 27, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  16. Seth Hill

    After he won the Presidency in 2008, part of McCain's duties have involved our relations with countries around the world. Negotiating with the Syrian rebels is critical at this time in the Middle East. What, you say he didn't win in 2008? Tell him that.

    May 27, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  17. Frankie V

    I voted for this guy in 08, I am glad we lost. This is a religious conflict that has been raging for centuries, All the western powers need to stay away from this mess.

    May 27, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  18. kennyzales

    Thank Christ the 2008 election was won by "that other guy."

    May 27, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  19. Lance Sephyr

    Opps...I am sorry for my Israel comments, I am stupid I meant Iran.

    May 27, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  20. CNNReviewer

    Hey McCain, this is a first. One-hundred percent of CNN comments are against US involvement in Syria, and against YOU. You have fourteen (14) homes. Pick one, and go there quietly!

    May 27, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  21. Old and Confused

    McCain is old and confused. He is a Senator from Arizona, but seems to believe he is the Secretary of State. Now that Joe Lieberman is no longer available to take tax-payer paid for junkets with, old John has started up a torrid love affair with Lindsey Graham. If you turn on a Sunday talk show and McCain is NOT a guest -that is news. Like a befuddled guy that has wandered away from the Old Folks home, someone needs to hold McCain's hand and bring him back from Syria. I'm ashamed to say he is one of my AZ Senators –and even worse-he is better than Jeff Flake!

    May 27, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  22. s cassidy

    did they meet at the u s base In turkey where the cia has been directing the faux democratic revolt for the last 2 years?
    will mccains pals in the new Orleans mafia family perhaps be profiting in some way ?

    May 27, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  23. PaulC

    Will his fellow republicans vote for the funds for his new war?

    May 27, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  24. Tmac1nonly

    Congrats to John McCain on supporting American values doing the work that great Americans do abroad unlike the POS that sit behind a computer or the people that have no vision or education on how to deal with matters like these aka this administration

    May 27, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. Doushus

    If Mcain wants to end the war so badly, let him strap on some combat boots, grab a rifle, and put his own feet on the sand. We have no business being there.

    May 27, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
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