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. Bullpuppy

    "Drill Baby Drill!" – Sarah Palin, 2008.
    "War Baby War!" – John McCain, always!

    May 27, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  2. WB Tomsun

    We have absolutlely no business in Syria and neither does McCain,he is still attempting to over shadow the Obama Administration foreign policy to make up for his failed 2008 presidential campaign. He should be interacting with other Islamic governments requesting them to take their heads out of the sand and take military and humanitarian action on behalf of the Syrian "so called rebels".

    May 27, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  3. Xorax

    The stories coming out of Syria are indeed disturbing, but I can't help thinking of the day when Ronald Reagan introduced us all to the "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan, who needed our help to defeat the Soviet invaders. Yeah, that worked out real well.

    May 27, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  4. Cheetahe

    I hope this old man stays there and fights for what he believes. This way we get rid of this warmonger, and save our youth.

    May 27, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  5. johnk

    Why do we ALWAYS have to get involved both financially and militarily in other countries internal affairs? McCain is very foolish in going there when we at home ave many other more important issues to address here? If you don't know what issues I am talking about, then you must be living under a rock.

    May 27, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  6. Dallas Ervin

    The rebels should keep McCain in Syria.

    May 27, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  7. D

    Maybe you should go and never come back? Oh by the way Obama they crossed your Red line What now how about arms for the freedom fighters?

    May 27, 2013 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  8. Bluedestiny

    Wow, Sen. McCain was a hero, and decades later, still is. What a heroic action to take. I couldn't believe the headline when I read it. That takes major guts, and to save a nation...

    No other words for it. Heroic.

    May 27, 2013 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  9. Will S

    How did he get there? Was he shot down?

    May 27, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  10. massoud

    Libya worked out so well and no I am not only referring to the Benghazi disaster, so lets follow the same playbook and apply it to Syria. Americans are tired of "policing the World", the objectives are never reached, and it costs a lot of money that we do not have ,and also to many American soldiers get injured, killed, or ptsd. It is sick that the only time the Fools on the Hill agree to something it involves send our military to some far off land.

    May 27, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  11. LDL

    Is Senator McCain acting as an official agent of the President? If not he is unauthorized citizen and is in violation of the Logan Act. Lastly who is paying for trip? Another waste of taxpayer money to assist in making money for himself and all of his war mongering lobbyists buddies. Stay home and go back to your job. If you don't know your job – time to retire and collection your pension.

    May 27, 2013 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  12. Keane

    I favor this headline: "What the Hell is John McCain Doing In Syria Meeting With Rebels?" There's no mention that he was officially sent to meet with these people as a representative of the U.S.

    May 27, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  13. Joan

    It appears that McCain was trying to upstage Secretary of State John Kerry who is meeting shortly with Russian diplomats who can have a very important part in ending this struggle. I hope McCain's bid for attention does not set negotiations back. He seems to badly want the US to enter another war just as Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down. It seems odd that he undertook this trip to try and get the US involved in a war on a day when Americans are remembering the thousands of dead soldiers who have paid the ultimate price in previous wars. There have been hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed in the Congo, Mali, Somalia and countless other countries but he didn't try to get the US involved there. He did not use good judgement in making this rogue trip and the media should be ashamed of themselves for making it sound like it was a great gesture. It was not his place to do this and he could have been kidnapped, injured or whatever and there would have been heck to pay. Mr. McCain do the job you were elected for and stop grandstanding.

    May 27, 2013 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  14. massms

    '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."

    Yes, Mr. McCain, make sure they get plenty of weapons...weapons that will ultimately be turned on us.

    May 27, 2013 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  15. Daawee

    Is John McCain trying to be a hostage again? Leave these people alone!!!!

    May 27, 2013 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  16. Angry American

    McCain is now openly talking and meeting to Al-Qaeda. I thought that we have U.S. laws to arrest and prosecute any American who talks and supports terrorists and especially Al-Qaeda. Who gave McCain the immunity so he can freely work against the interest of American people who are still suffering from 9/11?

    May 27, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  17. David in Tampa

    Mr. McCain.... you have no right, reason, cause, or agenda to be there. You are a Senator sir, one of 100. Your voice is not of the USA! Your raspy disgusting voice is of the war mongers of your party and your corrupt State. As far as you being a Hero? Forget about it. The capitol on that one was spent years ago supporting the lies of Cheney/Bush.

    May 27, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  18. Doc1

    Leave them to their own devices. Every time we help out one of these groups they eventually turn on us. Fight your own war, then get help from your so called 'Muslim brothers' in that region.

    May 27, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  19. Angry American

    McCain is now openly talking to and meeting with Al-Qaeda terrorists. I thought that we have U.S. laws to arrest and prosecute any American who talks and supports terrorists and especially Al-Qaeda. Who gave McCain the immunity so he can freely work against the interest of American people?

    May 27, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  20. Doc1

    Jordan Boudway
    It's stupid for people to be complaining about McCain going to Syria. I don't like the guy's politics at all, but someone had to go over. This is a real issue, good for him for stepping up.

    OK Jordan,
    You can be the first to suit up for McCain's Army. Get a clue. We need to stay out of such affairs from here on out.

    May 27, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  21. JohnK

    Don't be a dummy, save the money, We are under a tea party sequestration.

    May 27, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  22. Palm2Forehead

    the man is good at mongering up some war, i'll give him that.

    May 27, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  23. Sharp

    McCain is one of those old soldiers who can't let it go. He left a vital part of himself in the POW camp in North Vietnam. His experience was harsh & his service of the highest but now he is pushing for precious American blood & treasure to be wasted in another brush fire war in a minor foreign land. That treasure is desperately needed in an America bled white by greedy corporations & privileged rich. It is really sad to see another old soldier who just can't let go of war. Revolutions are long & bloody. The French Revolution lasted for generations & it is typical. The Syrians have no right to expect US to jump in guns blazing, straight out of Hollywood & solve their problems (which we can't) while our problems fester at home (courtesy of Republican obstruction).

    May 27, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  24. Loathstheright

    I bet that went well with McCain shaking his fist at the clouds.

    May 27, 2013 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  25. Roger

    John McCain is a prime example of why we need term limits. He does what he wants not what the people (American's) who voted him into office want. He votes against the people of his state and this country continually. He has forgotten who he works for. He has been living the good life in Washington DC for so long he is out of touch with real America as are so many other career politicians on both side.

    May 27, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
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