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. grafixer

    Sorry but McCain's time is over. He's not in touch with reality- rather an older politician trying to hang on to the days of war... the days of killing and taking over and pressing one's views. That simply is not how things will work in today's world. We have grown, as a country, as a world – WAY BEYOND the narrow GOP views of control and conquer for corporate profit. Everyone is now aware that wars are waged for the profit they bring to those in power. The GOP is lost... and trying to reach back to days that are long gone. Get this guy out of office. He does nothing but foster the fuel for more war and hatred.

    May 27, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  2. Gary

    Guess he's forgotten that members of congress can't negotiate with foreign powers. Grand standing trips like these so called fact finding trips do more harm than good. He's on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Doesn't he trust the information he gets on that committee?

    May 27, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  3. MBW

    Senator McCain, I applaud your sincerity in wanting to help the Syrian people. However, any support given to one side
    against the next will only breed more Muslim contempt for the United States. Any involvement we have had with any
    Muslim country has not gone well. Every effort we have made is viewed by many Muslims as some sort of war on
    Islam. Actually, the war is among Muslims themselves. They are the ones killing each other. This conflict between Sunni and Shia needs to be settled among themselves. Our involvement has only directed their anger and frustration from each other towards us. We need to protect our own interests first and let them settle their differences as best they
    can. Hopefully, in time, they will recognize that killing each other in the name of religion is not what God wants. Then
    all peoples of the region, Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Jews and Hindus can live in peace together.

    May 27, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  4. Thinkergal

    Memo to McCain: YOU ARE NOT PRESIDENT! Your war-talk was rejected in 2008, and the feelings of the American people regarding involvement in these conflicts has not changed. Give it a rest.

    May 27, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. Sid Airfoil

    From the article: ""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.""

    So now we're supposed to help them because if we don't, they'll take revenge on us?!? These are NOT the kind of people we should be helping. They are planning to use us, then hate us anyway.


    May 27, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. RL

    Repugs sure do love wars.

    May 27, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Dave

    Mr. McCain brain has been damages due to him spending some time in the pit in Vietnam!? This is besides his old age resulting in his brain cell getting retarded!? This blood sucking beast is in the pocket of the Zio ni st s Capitalist Corporation baby & women killer racist warmonger AIPAC Zi on is ts and loves the sight of blood. All this retard Dracula is preaching is to get arms to the terrorist vicious baby and women Jihadist, trained by the axis of evil (CIA, MI5, Mussad, FR, EU) fanatic criminals so his supporters at AIPAC will support him to kill innocents deprived and oppressed people around the world to feed the Zi on is ts' greed!? what a filthy blood sucking retard!?

    May 27, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  8. Sally

    Oh I hope he stays, he can be the rebel general and Lindsay Graham can be the colonel and that woman who is always standing behind them not sayings anything...ooooh what's her name, she's the chick from New Hampshire, whatever, she can be their back up singer.

    May 27, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. John

    I guess there aren't any problems in America worth his time? Heah Arizona, pick somebody else. This guy is making you all look pretty "low IQ".

    May 27, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  10. Dave

    What a retard blood sucking warmonger racist Dracula!? He has been in the pit too long!?

    May 27, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. jimcolyer

    "Boots on the ground" McCain would have us at war with every country on the planet.

    May 27, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  12. Greg

    That's okay! Let'em go! The fact is it is the people's choice whether we get involved in this or not and th eone we voted for is handling himself very well adn very much representing exactly what his voters asked him to do!
    These right sided people, this other side of such radicallism today are having such a hard time accepting they CANNOT have their way. Thank God for Obama!

    May 27, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. bob

    You can have him. As soon as he lands, give him a rifle and take away his passport.

    May 27, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. American

    It is apalling to see how ill-informed Mr. Irish Jonathan is about international news! He "thinks" that Russia & China are not involved in Syria ... really? Are you on this planet? Who has been propping up the regime of killers over the last 43 years (father & son)? The russians & chinese keep on pouring weapons into the hands of this monster day &night, not to mention the mullah's of iran, and of late, Hezoballah have entered the slaughter fields ... do you get the picture, wise one? Mr. McCain is an honorable man who wants to offer help so the axis of evil may disintegrate from within ... it is in the strategic interest of the USA to see the link between Iran's mullahs

    May 27, 2013 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  15. AgrippaMT

    McCain is the perpetual American war monger. Let's hope Assad's troops capture him while he's in Syria.

    May 27, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  16. Dale

    I think the sole purpose of this guy is to get us in wars, just think if he was President? How about taking care of the troups you happly sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr McCain.....No, I doubt you will, you just love sending them, you don't care about when and if they get back. Basic republican idealogy is send them if they are that stupid to sign up.

    May 27, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. Bob Lewis

    Well, whatever McCain said must be Gospel truth, since according to the media, he's the only Senator to serve in Congress with his mug on TV 24/7 as the Sole Authority on every issue. If he didn't go in with the full knowledge and approval of the Administration, it's a treasonous act. BTW, he has no clue who the "rebels" are or if they're any better than the government and look where his good intentions have gotten us in the past.

    May 27, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. Lisa

    Hey old man, you have your checkbook handy tompay for that war?

    May 27, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. John Tighe

    Isn't foreign policy the domain of the Presidency? Why is Grampy McGrumpy butting his nose where it doesn't belong?

    May 27, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. pep

    Can you imagine what it would be like if this old, demented war-mongering Repblican had been elected POTUS?

    May 27, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  21. Gotti

    McCain is a war hero and served in the armed forces unlike Obama! What the heck has Obama did for this country? Oh yea he was a communist trying to ruin it and was too scared to serve his country! Ignorant gay democrats!!!

    May 27, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  22. Jocho Johnson

    They should have kidnapped him and showed him what the "rebellion" is all about

    May 27, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. steve

    How does it end, what does victory look like, Senator McCain?

    May 27, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. TR

    I hope McCain decides to stay in Syria.

    May 27, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. Steve

    please......invite him over for diner!

    May 27, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
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