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. Frank T

    Here we go again OLD man McCain wants to get our United States of America into another Illegal War.Iraq wasn't enough for him,so now John wants another war.Go home to Prescott Az John. Your OLD retired buddies are awaiting your arrival.While you're at it John, please take your other OLD buddy Graham with you and enjoy your retirement together.

    May 27, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  2. JOE

    Obama only declares war for oil not for freedom

    May 27, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  3. Carlin123

    If McCain wants to help the rebels so badly why doesn't he sell 6 of his 8 homes and give them money and guns. As a tax payer I don't want my money being sent to other countries and that includes Israel.

    May 27, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  4. BP

    McCain is meeting al-qaeda now? Does it make him punishable for treason?

    May 27, 2013 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  5. Again

    Not enough wars for McCain? He should personally take a shovel and dig graves for each US servicemember coming back home in a coffin. Maybe that will change his perception of reality.

    May 27, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  6. GOP = Greed Over People

    Does the Syrian rebels realize that McCrypt cannot commit anything to the Syrian cause? He is not the President or the Secretary of State, he cannot do squat.

    Truly, a tax payer paid photo op and nothing else.

    May 27, 2013 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  7. GOP = Greed Over People

    Does this old fool know he is associating with al-Queada and Hezbollah operatives in his photo op?

    And they called Jane Fonda a traitor for meeting with the Viet Cong.

    Hypocrisy, thy name is GOP.

    May 27, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  8. morpheus1459

    Sniff-sniff, we smell yankee money. Quick everyone, hurry on over and make him feel like he's important, I need a new tent.

    May 27, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  9. Sj

    Has he lost what is left of his mind? Guess he got a bonus from his war contractors to go over there. He is bound and determined to get us into another war and to arm Al Qaeda. What is wrong with him? Is he in the early stages of Alzheimer or just senile or is he a traitor???

    May 27, 2013 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  10. Brian

    so McCain questions where Obama is during the Benghazi attack, yet on Memorial day we see McCain parading himself with Al Qaeda linked rebels in Syria. its a shameful and disgraceful act of representation of the American people. just shameful and so much worse as a military family myself he does this on Memorial day.

    May 27, 2013 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  11. g

    what about the war in the usa-30000 plus getting gun down every year

    May 27, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  12. johnny mustard

    Oh please, and keep him too !

    May 27, 2013 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  13. Woman In California

    It is this type of ignorance and low-class behavior which lead the American people to reject republicans at the polls last year. Not only is this disrespectful, but it undermines the president and the SOS (elected) to do the business of our country. McCain should just stay in Syria where he has the respect he so desperately wants, because no one who calls himself/herself a U.S. patriot could find this type of behavior acceptable.

    May 27, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  14. TKM

    Really, the old man went to Syria. Is that suppose to make me think he is anything less than a crazy old man!!

    May 27, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  15. ge

    stop exporting american oil to china and you won,t need the middle east oil

    May 27, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  16. pkrbkr3

    JohnMcCain should mind his own business......when he speaks he sounds like the old war duffer he is.....we have had enough war! There are too many needs of Americans to continually fight othere countries' wars for them with our money and lives!

    May 27, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  17. Randy

    He should have gone to Afghanistan to visit the troops. Like Bush used to do.

    May 27, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  18. g

    in the 80s they usa sent billions of arm to the freedom fighters in afganistan–how did that work out

    May 27, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  19. James Honolulu

    Cool, but before you start a war ask the American people if they wish to pay taxes to support such an adventure. What a knucklehead! You lost the election, remember?

    May 27, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  20. John

    We spent tillions of dollars in the middle east have been losing American solders there for decades and I can't think of one war we won that made America safer. We will be trying to take care of our surviving warrors for future generations. Russia and China learned a decade ago it was a no win war. They are laughing all the way to the bank while we brankrupt ourselves throwing money and lives in places we have no way of chaning anything for our benefit.

    We need to stay out of the region and let them kill each other off on their own dollar and not that of Americans.

    May 27, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  21. Cole

    Some more grandstanding by the guy that never saw a war he didn't like! McCain has no idea who are the rebels. Deception runs deep in the mideast. The children in the refugee camps in Jordan do need help but not just from US. Then to be taught that unless we help we are the enemy. It's a civil war and we don't know who is fighting from the rebel side. Al Qaeda or another off shoot? Do we really want to arm people that we are not sure of? I don't think so! We armed Sadam Hussein for cryng out loud. We armed the Taliban to fight the Russians and get them out of Afghanistan. Get the picture? Obviously none of that matters to Senator McCain. Why they keep electing him must be name recognition and nothing else. McCain will screw it up NO doubt about it! He has no business trying to conduct foriegn policy. Sorry John, we appriciate your service to our country but you should retire from politics.

    May 27, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  22. texus

    These rebels are no good than Assad, and Assad is one guy who promoted secularism in Syria, who allowed the Xtian population in Syria to live a peaceful life. Now once Assad goes its going to be a big commotion in Syria and its neighborhood. Even though Assad is not a fan of US of A, his staying put at the helm of Syrian govt is important for peace of that region

    May 27, 2013 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  23. Tired of the Old Man!

    McCain does NOT represent the US to other countries – that falls upon the Sec of State (Kerry) and his boss Obama. This sort of bs is just a continuation of the undermining the GOP has been doing since 2008. McCain and the GOP just want to fight another war. Killing thousands of innocents in Iraq and crippling thousands of Americans just hasn't filled his thirst for blood. I saw we put McCain in uniform and send him off to fight alongside his new buddies!

    May 27, 2013 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  24. Jo black

    End run around The President and State trying to force our hand. Bad move whatever the merits of his argument.

    May 27, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  25. George Welch

    The old goat probably made sure he was safe and had plenty of photographers in tow.

    May 27, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
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