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. komododr

    The moment we set foot in Syria it becomes a rallying cry against America. It becomes a recruiting tool for Islamic radicals and foment more anger against America. You have not seen roadside bombs (IED) in Syria. The moment our troops are there IED's will be a daily occurence. Let muslims kill each other. Let the Arab League take the lead in sending troops.

    May 27, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  2. Stan840

    Mr.McCain please stay there and fight all you want,keep the rest of us out of it.Let them destroy them selfs and their sand box the sooner the better.

    May 27, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. Babu

    Just let them all kill each other. It's good attrition....

    May 27, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  4. Spgfld Tom

    McCain? Was Zany Uncle Joe Biden too busy to make the trip? Dennis Rodman would probably accomplished more.

    May 27, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. truthserker

    McCain is in bed with Islamists......every conflict in which islamists started, McCain supports, Libya is now Islamist because of McCain, he is not a republican but an Islamist

    May 27, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. angela

    I don't even know what to say. If weapons or a war or whatever end up hurting even 1 American wouldn't McCain be the first one to start throwing a fit and demanding answers from the President? I would think after the whole Benghazi thing he would be happy for the 'prudence' being shown here. I think it's time for him to retire....

    May 27, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  7. Tim

    Thank you John McCain for your service. We know Biden and Obama were to chicken to serve in the Miltary. Typical liberal cowards.

    May 27, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  8. victor Linar

    Mr. McCain you ARE WRONG, you don't learn really. you are red neck republican who send our troops to IraK WITH A LIE, You were a heroe and the benefits in your life because you were a Hero are Big. Let the Muslims help the Muslims. Don't mess the US in this. Remeber you are not the President just a Senator who has sto obey the law.
    Look what the Muslims has done to the West, Bomb airplanes, Bomb our soldier in Lebano, destroy two building in New York and thousands of human beings, Look Britain the problems they have because of the Muslims, and so on

    May 27, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. komododr

    The moment we set in Syria, it becomes a rallying cry against America by islamic radicals. It becomes a recruiting tool and foment more anger against America. The Al Qaeda elements fighting alongside the rebels will turn aganst our troops. You haven't seen roadside (IEDs) bombs yet, but when our troops are there it becomes it becomes a daily occurence. Let the Arab League send troops and take care their own brothers.

    May 27, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. poiuyt7

    By what authority does McCain negotiate foreign policy? Doesn't that fall under the purview of the White House? Nowhere in this article does it state that he went to Syria with the knowledge and approval of our State Department or President Obama.

    Can you imagine the outcry if a Senator unilaterally went to Syria to show his or her support to Assad?

    May 27, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. Alex

    Well ive got to give it to Senator McCain, the man has balls to go into a warzone. More than our current Disaster-In-Chief, wonder where he is it? Let me guess another golfing trip on the American tax payer. Get stuff done Obama, or get the hell out.

    May 27, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  12. KR

    Nobody will miss him...

    May 27, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  13. Jim

    Please put your effort in helping Americans!

    May 27, 2013 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. Jayakumar

    he is going senile in his old age. What does McCain want us to do in Syria, a country where 100s of rebel groups are fighting each other and Assad. Yet another war the GOP want the country to get into. McCain should realise that being a politician does not mean sending our troops into useless wars across the world, but rather secure our borders and develop our nation. What did we achieve in Iraq, Libya and other countries in the middle east we were involved in. They are all back to dictatorships, and back to killing each other. None of them are stable. Assad is best for Syria and its people and we have no business there. A lesson the britishers learned only too well.. DO NOT INTERFERE in the middle east. Leave them to their wars and solutions. Interfere and they will blame us down the road for their problems.

    May 27, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  15. kmac

    Lets create a Layfette Escadrill type organization. Americans could go to a recuriter sign up and Cons like McCain arm and pay their way to Syria. Those that want to be apart could led their support on Cons dime and die in the name of Conservativeism.

    May 27, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  16. Kanageloa

    John McCain is the last of the idiots on Capital Hill that needs to meet with anyone other than citizens of Arizona. He man is getting senile and needs to quit politics and retire to his ranch.

    May 27, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  17. Ron

    Tim: how about the conservative "cowards," Bush and Cheney, who didn't serve, in fact avoided service, and then started a war under false pretense–which BTW, benefited Cheney's Halliburton corp handsomely. Apparently cowardice is found in all persuasions. But the worst is when you profit by it.

    May 27, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |

    I get so amused reading comments from people in this country (USA) who say we have been to war for 10 years, we're tired of war etc... You did what again ??? You went to war really??? You lifted something other than your tv remote... well I don't know whether to shake your hand or call you a smuck. Let me introduce a piece of advice, buy earplugs. If we sit back and wait..... we get bigger problems to solve like a World War in the future. Or another terrorist group that will ultimately increase government spending anyhow. Solve the problem where the problem is before it becomes your problem on your own soil. McCain has seen the world, I trust his judgement over college punks with pot stickers taped to their economic 101 books.

    May 27, 2013 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  19. Salero21

    McCain the irrelevant is struggling to stay afloat and relevant but is drowning in irrelevance. A dinosaur of a bygone era. Whose only claim to be in politics, is that he was once shot down while flying bombing missions over a poor and miserable country that never attacked the US. He survived because those poor miserable people saved him from drowning in a lake. Has he ever thanked them for not letting him drown? Has he ever thanked them for not put him to sleep?

    May 27, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  20. daveogilvy

    Dear Syria,

    You've got him, now go ahead and keep him. Please.

    We really don't want him back.



    May 27, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  21. mae

    Nice to know were making money through arms deals again. hopfully this time it wont back fire.

    May 27, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  22. Dorothy

    McCain doesn't mind buying weapons for other countries, but money for our poor and sick. Forget about it. They are on their own. Some patriot. I wonder how much money he and his rich wife have invested in the war industry?

    May 27, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  23. Peter

    I would suggest for Sen. McCain to cross the Syrian border to visit, if he can, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia to see what his stupid support to those people will lead to. He is supporting radical Muslims to take control of Syria and turn it to another backward regime.

    May 27, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  24. Rich De

    Where were these older politicians when millions were being killed in the Congo?

    May 27, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  25. Larry L

    Those of you who are willing to die or willing to send your children to die for the Syrian rebels – please raise your hands. Those who want your tax money to go towards this effort please let it be known. We'll need volunteers since our military is exhausted from 11 years of the Bush/Cheney debacle.

    May 27, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
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