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. BudW

    John wake up, the rebels are linked to terror groups we need to keep our nose out both sides are Evil

    May 27, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  2. Doodle

    On who's authority was this trip made? If this trip was not sanctioned by the president, congress, or the senate, the cost needs to come out of McCains, pocket. He may not realize it yet, but he does not speak for every American, or voter in our nation.

    May 27, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  3. Jay

    Who have Mccaine the authority to do this and who the hell is paying for this very expensive trip?
    Doesn't he have enough on his plate in the State he was elected to represent? Why is he taking the liberty to speak for the White House if he doesn't see eye to eye with them anyway?
    More harm than good this war monger does.

    May 27, 2013 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  4. elucidated1

    This is so smart. Our military needed a boost anyway, so why not just send in US troops and weapons to angry Muslims. I mean, what could go wrong?

    May 27, 2013 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  5. kols

    McCain loves wars.

    May 28, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  6. Jeff

    He should be arrested by the US government upon returning for illegally entering another country. He has broken the law and should be held accountable for it. Syria should sue for his extradition, it would be interesting. As he was not on an official visit nor approved for entry into Syria by the presiding government, he cannot claim diplomatic immunity.

    May 28, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  7. annieL

    Another Republican wasting our tax dollars. Or did some of his buddies in the arms industry pay for his flight and security? Either way, not a patriot but a traitor. He has no clue who those rebels are and what kind of government they would create if they topped Assad. And what they would do with the arms they had left over. We have a president, Senator McCain, and it's NOT YOU.

    May 28, 2013 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  8. TBone

    What is wrong with this media starved lunatic? If something had gone wrong and this U.S.Senator wound up as a hostage/prisoner ( wouldn't be his first time) how many lives would have been put in harms way or even dragging this country into another middle eastern civil war to retrieve Grandpa Munster? Alzheimers' patients are usually prevented from wandering off into dangerous situations.

    May 28, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  9. sam

    it is great visit to see what is going on ...and how usa can help bring peace to the reigon is not just syria ...the whole middle east need our effort to bring peace ..No War...i know McCain he is a good man ...there is no winer in this war ...
    peace ....

    May 28, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  10. Lenny Pincus

    Darrell Issa just launched an investigation into McCain's meeting with Islamic fundamentalists.

    May 28, 2013 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  11. Hayder

    Supporting a new Taliban in Syria? re-create Al Qaida in Syria? supporting terrorists? those what called"rebels" have the exact same ideology of Osama Bin Ladin and loyal to him and his terrorist organization, and the are the same people who killed and not missing any chance to kill Americans, they are the enemies of light and life, is Senator McCain doesn't know all that, then it's a disaster ..... Asad regime is very bad, a copy of Saddam's Ba'th party was ruling Iraq, but the critical situation is Syria puts decision makers and any one in the position to choose between the very bad and the very worst, so what will Administration is choosing? does that serves American interests?

    May 28, 2013 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  12. ThinkAgain

    The Arab League should be taking the lead on this, not the U.S. McCain and all the GOP knows this, but they'd rather continue trying to bring down President Obama.


    May 28, 2013 01:29 am at 1:29 am |

    But who is McCain? He never fought in any war and then became a war hero.He was just a war prisoner who was forced to reveal our war secrets to our enemies.

    May 28, 2013 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  14. Trevor from Nebraska

    Finally, a man who is not afraid to give the finger and say "Thats not right so lets fix it." We need more people with a back bone rather than just cartilage. Kudos to ole'Mcain, give em hell buddy

    May 28, 2013 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  15. Name Uche Agonsi

    Tell McCain that we need night vision goggles in Nigeria for Luxury Bus Drivers instead......

    May 28, 2013 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  16. Name Uche Agonsi

    If there people who are pushing US into yet another senseless war in Syria, they are the Republicans, the American Congress & some American Media. The American public has vehemently resisted this commitment. For goodness sake, its the middle-east again, its the moslems & its their culture to kill everyone.....including themselves. I dont get America that is having problems repairing its infrastructures, providing medicare & prenursury school to its babes, faced with unemployment, debt, with unwanted commitments in Afghan(another moslem world they are helping), unsolved Iraq problems /experience ...... When will it end. There are soooo many military families, children that are devastated by US senseless wars.. ..... What US needs is peace not war.

    May 28, 2013 02:40 am at 2:40 am |
  17. doakes

    Why doesnt american people make revolution? i am angry at the people of USA theydo complain but they do nothing! They let this war mongers run the country while they are eating at mcdonalds.

    May 28, 2013 02:44 am at 2:44 am |
  18. DixonIV

    McCain has never seen a war he didn't like. Imagine how many wars/conflicts we would be in today had he been elected. Now he quotes a "teacher" who he says these children will take revenge on us. Come on McCain, go home to Arizona and leave the foriegn policy to those who aren't looking for a profit for their donors.

    May 28, 2013 02:47 am at 2:47 am |
  19. Harry

    John,we have cleaned out your office. Fired, and this why the world hates America. We are stupid,

    May 28, 2013 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  20. Carrie Higby

    Here he goes again... Nice of him to stop by to assess the situation, but how in the name of all things Holy are we supposed to pay for military engagement in another war? Does McCain think we can borrow another trillion from China? mcCain would do well to keep his ass home and work on the budget and the national deficit, but instead he is traveling the globe advocating that we involve ourselves in another countries business yet again!!! Good thing he lost his Presidential campaign, we would have already started another war in Iran, and now involve ourselves in Syria? While Americans go without health Insurance, American programs and services are being cut back, Social Security projected to be insolvent within the next 30 years and this fool rather travel to other countries sticking his nose on behalf of the American people into other countries business on our tax bill. Wonder how much this trip is going to end up costing us!!??

    May 28, 2013 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  21. Sam A.

    Not caring for arming the mainstream rebels means not having a problem with a possible Iran/Hezbulla controlled Syria, or worse.

    May 28, 2013 03:52 am at 3:52 am |
  22. Erik

    He is in violation of the Logan Act, and should be prosecuted.

    May 28, 2013 03:56 am at 3:56 am |
  23. FlapJack

    From a rebels perspective just remember "My enemies enemy is my friend!" Now, as an American remember I said that when the chickens come home to roost. We just need to stay out of everyone else's business. If the Korporate War Machine needs to turn a profit, let them send their children to war.

    May 28, 2013 04:08 am at 4:08 am |
  24. Jay Stamper

    Having voted to authorize the use of force in both Iraq and Afghanistan, were John McCain and Lindsey Graham not chastened when these two wars left over 100,000 civilians and U.S. soldiers dead or wounded and our economy on life support. Did they consider resigning, maybe to write memoirs in the hopes that we could at least learn from their mistakes. At the very least, did they shy away from any future discussion of foreign policy. No– not John and Lindsey. Instead, they're weighing in on Syria, concluding that we need to arm the rebels, put American boots on the ground and bomb the country's Air Force with cruise missiles.

    May 28, 2013 04:18 am at 4:18 am |
  25. givesuccess

    Lets hope he doesn't give a speech at a funeral for a Muslim fighter and say he's going home to be with Jesus and the Virgin Mary in Valhalla.

    May 28, 2013 04:50 am at 4:50 am |
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