Senator John McCain spent Memorial Day in Syria meeting with rebels trying to overthrow the Assad Regime. The trip symbolizes McCain’s opposition to President Obama’s current Syrian policy of limited aid and intervention.
Sen. John McCain Monday became the highest-ranking U.S. official to enter Syria since the bloody civil war there began more than two years ago, The Daily Beast has learned.
McCain, one of the fiercest critics of the Obama administration’s Syria policy, made the unannounced visit across the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army. He stayed in the country for several hours before returning to Turkey. Both in Syria and Turkey, McCain and Idris met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units that traveled from around the country to see the U.S. senator. Inside those meetings, rebel leaders called on the United States to step up its support to the Syrian armed opposition and provide them with heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and airstrikes on the Syrian regime and the forces of Hezbollah, which is increasingly active in Syria.
It is unclear what authority, if any, Senator McCain has regarding any arms sales let alone the creation of a no-fly zone. Nonetheless, McCain had extended discussions with Syrian rebels on military support.
Prior to his visit inside Syria, McCain and Idris had separate meetings with two groups of FSA commanders and their Civil Revolutionary Council counterparts in the Turkish city of Gaziantep. Rebel military and civilian leaders from all over Syria came to see McCain, including from Homs, Qusayr, Idlib, Damascus, and Aleppo. Idris led all the meetings.
The entire trip was coordinated with the help of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, an American nonprofit organization that works in support of the Syrian opposition. Two leaders of the group attended all of the McCain-Idris
The Syrian Emergency Task Force has been lobbying tirelessly for more US involvement in the Syrian Civil War, a war which has already cost the lives of 80,000 people according to the UN. So far they have had little success as a decade of tiring and demoralizing wars in the Middle East has made Americans much less sanguine on getting directly involved in Syria.
But with Hezbollah now getting involved and McCain’s shaming trip, U.S. policymakers may be taking a another look at Syrian intervention.