Senator John McCain (R-AZ) secretly crossed the border into Syria to speak with rebel leaders allied with the Free Syrian Army on Monday, according to his spokeswoman.
While Rachael Dean confirmed McCain stole across the border, she refused to go into details about the trip. The news is surprising, given the danger involved in such a trip.
Syria is in the middle of a bloody civil war that has claimed the lives of an estimated 70,000 people. While the United States has demanded Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down from power, Russia has supported the regime.
McCain has been a fierce critic of Democratic US President Barack Obama, who so far has refused to send arms to the Syrian rebels. While he has stopped short of calling for ground troops in the Middle Eastern nation, the former GOP presidential candidate supports aggressive military actions against the Assad regime.
McCain’s visit to Syria also came as the EU decided to drop its arms embargo on the Syrian rebels. The decision came after Britain and France strongly supported the measure and threatened to vote against all restrictions on Syria.
General Salem Idris, chief of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, reportedly accompanied John McCain across the Turkish border into Syria to meet with FSA leaders from around the country. They asked him for increased US support, including heavy weapons.
They also reportedly asked for a no-fly zone and airstrikes on both Syrian government and Hezbollah forces. The surprise visit by McCain comes a week after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to provide weapons to Syrian rebels, along with military training to vetted rebel groups. They also voted to impose sanctions against anyone who sells oil or transfers arms to the Assad regime.
John McCain is part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. There was no comment from the White House on McCain’s Syria visit. While a State Department official stated the department was aware of McCain’s visit, all questions about it were referred to McCain’s office.
Do you think the United States should arm the Syrian rebels?