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. Dominick

    What a traitor, wanting to arm terrorists who bomb us.

    May 27, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  2. Phyllis Gwendoline Williams

    He is a brave gentleman showing ability of Leadership. Hope his visit will benefit this desperate country.

    May 27, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. BFC

    Jc: Benjamin Franklin addresses your opinion succinctly:

    "There never was a good war, or a bad peace."

    May 27, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  4. hcl

    Pure stupidity.

    Did he kiss the lips of the animal that ate a soldier's heart last week?

    May 27, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  5. John

    You Republican and JOHN McCAIN got to reminder that America Is Broke and can't afford to help Syria. If you left IT TO John McCain we be at war all over the world.

    May 27, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. dwicjan

    McCain, No military aid to Syrian rebels. We can use the money for other issues here in the USA. They may just turn those weapons on us if they have the chance. Thanks for your service in our country's military during the Vietnam war. Some of your ideas don't sound right or good to me.

    May 27, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  7. Nonsensical

    Send him to the front.

    May 27, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  8. Howard

    Sorry MCcain wants to support those who cheered the mass murders on 9/11

    May 27, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  9. Luke

    this is for you Senator McCain because of people like you in high positions put the American people at risk. army soldiers are being beheaded in different countries. let them destroy each other this is not a problem. let's start helping people here who have gone through hurricanes tornadoes, gang violence. we have our own problems sender McCain

    May 27, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  10. Nomccain

    John McCain never met a war he did not like. Now, he wants to start a new war in Syria for the US. Let the Syrians fight their own civil war. I am so glad that this war monger was not elected President of the US.

    May 27, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  11. hsilver

    Only way he could get away from Lindsay Graham for a day or two. Seriously, if he wants to have a real effect on foreign policy, he should run for President - oh wait...

    May 27, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  12. Joan

    Mr. McCain you lost in 2008. Get over it. The President is handling things just fine so just keep your mouth shut, stop meddling and quit making things worse. You seem to want to be in the headlines all the time. You could use your time better in the US working to pass your immigration bill and helping in countless ways to make things better for Americans. You are quickly losing the respect you used to have when you had your priorities straight. By the way, who is paying for this expensive trip?

    May 27, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  13. Lynndel

    McCain does not represent me. Stick to Arizona politics.

    May 27, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  14. jamaal

    imagine him and sarah palin in the white house.

    May 27, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. NameFreddie Nerk

    McCain is a traitor. Our President has already espoused our policy. Jihad John should shut up.

    May 27, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |

    Just like McCain to get involved in other peoples business. Just what we need McCaine another war. Let the peoples in power do what they are doing and stay out of business you are not involved directly in.You are not the president or the American people. NO MORE WAR MCCAIN

    May 27, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  17. norma jean

    I think McCain should just stay over there and have a nice long talk with every country......He seems to think he knows more than anyone else...Just stay over there...We will somehow get along wihout you!!!!!!PLEASE!

    May 27, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  18. alf564

    The OLD man should be home instead of running around the world SUPPORTING the Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda in Syria....He is totally lost mentally and as a Senator he should work on getting the ILLEGAL ALIENS out of his State...

    May 27, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  19. Andy

    He needs to be put out to pasture. Supporting al Qaeda rebels? How come no outrage? Assad is no angel, but minorities (Christian, Druze) lived safely under his regime. Assad not stupid, he won't attack Israel. Yet McSenile wants to support al Qaeda rebels to oust the Christians and Druze can be executed and then the Jihadis can go after Israel. Mccain is a traitor. Let Syria capture him and keep him.

    May 27, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  20. JD

    Imagine if McCain was a Democrat and a Republican President. They would be having a cow.

    May 27, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  21. Sean

    What an idiot!!

    May 27, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  22. Hassan

    This a proof that US is behind the rebels and want this war to continue. anyways, US intelligence is providing very useful information for rebels about the Syrian army positions and movement. Say it or not, Accept it or not, you are directly helping Ben Laden organization to take control over Syria.

    May 27, 2013 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  23. Sean

    McCain has no idea what he is doing!

    May 27, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  24. QZ

    Does he want another Libya?

    May 27, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  25. The Nudge

    I thought McCain was a Senator from the state of Arizona. Isn't he supposed to represent the interests of the people of Arizona? I didn't know Arizonians cared about Syria.

    May 27, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
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