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. lIb

    I pray he stays there.

    May 27, 2013 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    He wasn't elected to go to Syria, he was elected to work as congressman, and he can't seem to do that, or create one single job here in USA where we are have some of our own wars going on with republicans, like the war on women, the war of science, the war on Ag., the war on poverty, and the war on people of color.

    May 27, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  3. GI Joe

    Is he telling then we will fight their war for them?

    Get that war-mongering old coot back here and take his passport away.

    May 27, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  4. Wes

    The uhbama was going to go, but he decided to play golf instead.

    May 27, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  5. FGW

    John McCain can't even create one single job an American.............if he wants to help women, then why doesn't he fund the police department in Oregon whose budgets cuts have created a staff shortage that they cannot respond to women who are raped. We deserve better, how about helping stop rape in the military? No, all he has on his brain is bomb, bomb, and bomb.

    May 27, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  6. jennifer in Houston

    Time to hang up your hat John... we do not need anymore involvement in any more civil wars...

    May 27, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  7. Quest

    Who is paying for McCaine's trip to Syria? Were the funds appropriated? I somehow doubt it because the entire Republican Party's mantra is do what we say and not what we do. They're useless hypocrites.

    May 27, 2013 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  8. Guy

    Wow. A lot of backlash here. No big surprise. If I remember correctly, we were once a bunch of "rebels" fighting for our freedom, also.

    May 27, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  9. charlie diaz

    I may not like the dude but I have to say.. the man has balls...

    May 27, 2013 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  10. Thorp lastenbar

    He’s like the Fred Sanford of the US senate!

    May 27, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    Wow de javu or iraq? Arm the rebels then have them fight u with your own weapons later. (al quada)

    May 27, 2013 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  12. Bob

    Uh, John: Who do you think you are, Jane Fonda?

    May 27, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  13. yabusame

    oh great. more waste of our money!!!

    does mccain also want to staff an embassy there later so more diplomats can be killed?

    May 27, 2013 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  14. Faramarz Fathi

    McCain has never seen a war he didn’t like it.
    And needless to mention, he has lost his sense loyalty and patriotism. The Israeli welfare supersedes that of US.
    It is time to put this old horse to pasture.

    Faramarz Fathi

    May 27, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  15. Tony in STL

    Shouldn't he be somewhere trying to pass some legislation/laws? I thought that was the role of a Congressperson.

    May 27, 2013 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  16. Holly

    Why on earth are we still over there? That whole nation is not worth one pinkie finger of our precious troops. Bring our troops home NOW and stop this useless war. It is what all Americans want to happen except those who are making the almighty dollar off this so called war. What exactly are we fighting for? What is our prize?

    May 27, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  17. Scott

    Maybe the Honorable Senator should 'sneak' into Iraq and have a meeting with the Al Queda there as well. The US fights one faction in the war on terror and offers arms and expertise to a brother organization to help political agendas elsewhere. The hypocrisy reeks so badly I can smell it all the way up here in Canada. I had hoped Senator McCain would have been savvy enough not to get involved in this hugely embarrassing political quagmire.

    May 27, 2013 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  18. bman

    McCain is working for his former prisoner of war guards in Vietnam. His subliminal commands have been activated.
    This traitor should be tried for treason.

    May 27, 2013 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  19. bman

    McCain is a disgrace to the military. This should not be a story on Memorial day.

    May 27, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  20. Parker

    The USA gets involved now, and the help provided to them will come back against us later. Reagan helped Osama bin Laden, and then look what happened. Let them fight it out for themselves. They only want our weapons, not our influence, and certain not our politics or democracy. We can send money and tons of military stuff to them, but I can't get health insurance because of a pre-existing life-long condition. Take care of me first, after all, you are using my tax dollars to help others than don't care about us. Did any of them offer any help to those in Oklahoma after the tornadoes? Or the floods in Texas? The fires in California? The Hurricanes in Louisiana and Florida? screw them . . . .

    May 27, 2013 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  21. No support

    Did he sing "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" for the rebels? I bet they would have gotten a kick out of that little diddy... well some of them ... ok, maybe none of them.

    May 27, 2013 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  22. Anonymous

    McCain us one of the few Republcians who is good hearted.

    May 27, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  23. rhonda kaissi

    how do you justify your visit to AlQaida and sit and meet with theses barbarian while your fellow men and women are dying every day by these fanatics. John Mcain , did you forget 9/11 , Binghazi, boston tragedy and and . the boston bomber own website recognize his fanatics brothers in syria, the same brothers that Mcain is supporting and meeting with . What a shame and immoral senator!!!

    May 27, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  24. i'm impressed

    i'm impressed that such a large percentage of you are disgusted with mccain for doing this. perhaps there is hope ....

    May 27, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  25. g

    don,t loose your head while your there and remember ,they still hate you and america

    May 27, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
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