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. Lowry

    I hope McCain stays in Syria and never comes back. I say good riddance to the war monger. 🙁

    May 27, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  2. Henry

    He must of felt like an illegal crossing our borders

    May 27, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  3. getalife

    aq joined the rebels so john should be arrested for treason.

    cnn refuses to report on gop open treason.

    cnn failed America.

    May 27, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  4. maggie

    Geo; good idea send dennis! that should be a war campaign slogan: "We are sending our secret weapon; Dennis Rodman, we mean business. Personally I think we should send Neil Diamond to every war zone as we spray pot over war zone

    May 27, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  5. BlueAlliance

    McCain is out of line poking his nose into this situation. Who authorized this trip.....I'm sure it wasn't the Obama administration! McCain needs to be reined in – he is a disgrace and is publicly undermining Obama because of his refusal to accept him as POTUS.

    May 27, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  6. vikingwoman

    1 thing the past 10+years should have taught us is that Mid East/Asian nations just want our support, not a take-over of their fight, not a "nation building" effort, just an acknowledgement that their efforts are in line w/equal/human rights & help w/food & possibly weapons! No rebel seems to advocate full on American armed-force-boots-on-the-ground intervention! We should listen to them, not GOTP warmongers!!

    May 27, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  7. Steve

    How many times do we have to rewrite this story? We help them and then they kill us.

    May 27, 2013 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. KTM

    Bloodthirsty McCain....... He sure is itching to get us into another war. Syria's civil war is not worth one drop of US soldier's blood or even one US taxpayer's dollar. This isn't our fight. Of the 190+ countries on the earth, why is it up to the US to choose a side and join every battle??

    May 27, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. AlexanderE81

    That no good S@B. Senator McCain, Al Nusra's man on Capitol Hill. What garbage. I have no respect for him. I don't care what his war record is. He is supporting those who would kill my family in a heartbeat. When Senator McCain leaves this world may he burn in the fiery furnace down below. This man is not a man, he is a dog, maybe not even a dog he is lower than a dog. He is swine.

    May 27, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  10. Richard Broderick, Jr.

    Senator McCain has never seen a war he didn't want us in.

    May 27, 2013 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  11. Mike McDaniel

    This guy is a nut. This is a stunt to get more TV face time. It is not remotely within the responsibilities of a Senator.

    May 27, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  12. keith cossairt

    should not Sen. McLame be charged under the patriot act for meeting and aiding known terrorists ?
    what a double standard we have.

    May 27, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  13. PJ

    I commented before I saw this picture.
    Does he know exactly who he is talking to/sitting with?
    Does he need clearance from anybody to go to Syria and pretend he can 'make a deal'?
    This is so disgusting it has almost ruined our day.
    It seems to me he has a lot of explaining to do, especially to President Obama and Secretary Kerry.
    What a stupid man!!!!

    May 27, 2013 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  14. Tayo

    Someone should put a leash on this old man gone senile.
    Anyone remember how he visited Benghazi soon after the rebels took overwhile an Al-Qaeda flag was flying over a courthouse?

    May 27, 2013 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  15. Rick K

    Oh Great,
    Now we have been reduced to, "Send In The Clowns".

    May 27, 2013 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  16. Dave in Columbus

    Arrest him for Treason! He is a warmonger, indeed!

    May 27, 2013 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  17. Joe

    McCain is one of the biggest proponents of fighting Al Qaeda...and he goes and meets with the same people that have groups named after Bin Laden...the rebels ARE Al Qaeda...just further proof that the war on terror is a joke to make big business more money while innocent people die.

    May 27, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  18. rl

    Agreed Lowry. I was always under the impression the President and only the President could set foreign policy (unless McCain was asked to do so, which I doubt very much). But that probably only applies to repub/TBs.

    May 27, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  19. Tigrr

    Let him stay there.
    McCain has been like Israel, wanting to start a war wherever they can. When will Israel reveal the nukes they have??

    btw: McCains Bush WH buds, Silverstein and Mossad faction, did 9/11. CIA confirms. See Veterans Today site for info. All ol Congress knew/ knows, and does nothing. Goes to show how lame they really are.

    May 27, 2013 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  20. Brian Smith

    Wow, and the rebels let him go! They didn't hold him for ransom like they do to UN peacekeepers. That is progress!

    May 27, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  21. Brenda

    Whack job. If a Democrat did that to Bushie, Dickie Boy would have him lynched on live TV (FUX NEWS).

    May 27, 2013 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  22. Jim

    McCain is what the rebels would a useful idiot.

    May 27, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  23. Glenn

    Evidently the people of Arizona are very concerned with the situation in Syria. So concerned as to send their senator overseas . Never saw a war he didn't like. Maybe he could take Sheriff Joe with him and really show them American justice in action. Pink turbans anyone?

    May 27, 2013 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  24. don in albuquerque

    And the war machine just keeps on rolling..........What fools we are to keep electing these people to office whose only goal is to see our children killed in some foreign country that most of them couldn't find on a map.

    May 27, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  25. laura

    I hope the Syrian Army gets a hold of him and tortures him to death for all the war mongering he is advocating. It will be another way of loosing him so AZ can have a normal Senator that represents them.

    May 27, 2013 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
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