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. James

    McCain is an idiot. Thank goodness he and that windbag Palin are not in the Whitehouse. That would be yet another war we would be in. Arming those who would inevitably turn against us, including those who cheered on 9-11 while the towers fell. Keep Erican soldiers home. Use the money that would go to war to do some positive good within our borders.

    May 27, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. getalife

    If he won, our military would be there these last four years to bankrupt America like the gop wants.

    May 27, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  3. lauraf

    "Those who don't remember History are doomed to repeat it".. Arming Rebels is a bad idea We did that in
    Afghanistan when the Russians invaded and that turned out to be a very bad bad idea. It created OBL.

    May 27, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  4. Sashatree

    Wonder if idiot McCann met with the Syrian rebel who cut out and ate the heart of the Syrian soldier! These rebels are NOT what we think they are!! They are Islamist jihadists who live by Sharia law - and as that mother said (paraphrasing) whose children will take revenge on the USA for not helping them soon enough/or enough in their eyes. LET THESE ANIMALS KILL EACH OTHER OFF! WE NEED TO STAY OUT OF OTHER COUNTRY'S BUSINESS! DOESN'T HISTORY PROVE TO US THAT WHEN WE SUPPORT REVOLUTIONS AND INSTALL OUR "DEMOCRATICALLY FRIENDLY" REGIME - THEY TURN ON US AND BECOME OUR SWORN ENEMIES!?!?? McCann is a complete JERK for being there!!! Send him out to the Alzheimer's pasture!

    May 27, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  5. Tim

    It doesn't matter Grampy does, I will never forgive him for bringing half-term Palin into the national spotlight. Pretty sad legacy.

    May 27, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  6. DBreedwell

    Can he stay there? They can have him.

    May 27, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  7. Henry

    We will send in our armies and kill off a couple hundred thousand innocent civilians like we did in Iraq and Afghanistan. That will teach them to have a civil war. Who knows, because defense contractors need more profit, we might make our war in Syria last 11 years like Afghanistan

    May 27, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  8. Jay Gatsby

    So this old fool is now going to openly and directly support Al-Qaeda terrorists? Opposition is nothing more than terrorists, Americans think they can help them win and then get rid of all the terror cell putting in place their man. Russia has a base there, if this escalated Israel will be in bad position.

    May 27, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  9. signswooden

    Who is paying for this??

    May 27, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  10. Pale Horseman

    There are 2 major parts of the Rebels. There is the Islamic Brotherhood and there is the Socialists.

    Wonderful how the GOP supports Islam and Socialists, then comes back to the people they represent and has them Demonize Islam and Socialists while having everyone call their favorite Muslims and Socialists "Rebels".

    Are the GOP honest to the people they represent?
    Wouldn't a lawyer get a violation for breaking their fiduciary responsibility?

    May 27, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  11. joe

    Instead for working for the American people and improving their lives, this guy is working for a bunch of terrorists.

    May 27, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  12. WatchDawg

    All those complaining about McCain running amok in the world...VOTE the bum out...pretty straight forward...come on AZ..prove to the rest of the country you're smarter than this man!!

    May 27, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  13. svann

    There is an article in the WSJ about how Syrian businessmen are almost to a man on the side of Assad. You arent going to win this one John.

    May 27, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. bojensen

    What is the big deal? McCain is assessing the situation; not implementing policy. I'm sure the State Dept is fully aware that he is going there.

    Don't forget that certain factions within our government may not be so upset that Hizbollah is acting as a counterweight to Al Qaeda backed Sunni-Wahabbi-Salafists who are fighting the Alawites and Hassad clan. Syria is so complex, I just hope we stay out until we know exactly what we are doing.

    May 27, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. Rocky

    You Lost the election Mr. Stupid McCain...BUTT OUT of what isn't your business.

    May 27, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Mike Wagner

    Here's a novel idea LET'S STOP POLICING THE WORLD and focus our resources here in OUR country for things like health care, food for the hungry, immigration, secondary education for our future generations just to name a few. I'm tired of seeing our tax dollars be spent on other countries which have been fighting for years. John McCain take your head out of your BUTT!!!!!!!!!!! By the way I'm a republican.

    May 27, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. Sashatree

    The only REAL reason McCann is there is to promote the concept of arming the rebels - in other words – he's there to help make sure all his war mongering, war machine making buddies all rake in record war profits!! It's tough for them with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and ending - they need another WAR to keep their pockets overflowing with those defense contracts and war profits!!

    May 27, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  18. Rudy

    All these years in politics and none wiser. There should be a compalsory rocking chair for people of the Senator's times.

    May 27, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. newengland2

    Basically, he know nothing about how to growth US but spend $ to make more bumps.

    May 27, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  20. dot

    "No nation can negotiate with terrorists." – George W.

    May 27, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  21. aa

    I hope he never comes back or is a guest of assad in his dungeon

    May 27, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  22. Mike

    Reagan made Bin Laden, the terrorist, in Afghanistan to hurt the Soviets. That did not work out too well at all on 911. Now, McCain wants to help Al Qaeda terrorists just because Soviets are helping Bashar Al Asad. Keep away from Syria, Senator. Who authorized your travel? Why are you wasting taxpayer's dollars?

    May 27, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  23. Gene Kirkach

    What a dolt! He cannot distinguishe between friend and enemy anymore. Did he talk to Asad at all to see his side of the story. Did he ever asked why the Army is still supporting Asad?

    May 27, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. josh p.

    Why didn,t Assad drop a bomb on him.

    May 27, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. BloatedGovtForAll

    John McCain seems to have an attraction to getting the United Stated involved in any armed conflict that is happening around the world. A true HAWK in every sense of the word. I have no party affiliation and vote for those who I believe will do the best job for all citizens. I can truely say that as much as I dislike Obama, I believe we are very fortunate that John McCain did not obtain the title of President of the United States. We all would have a greater understanding of the meaning of Memorial Day if this were the case. Go away John McCain, We have had enough death and destruction for a lifetime.

    May 27, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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