Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad and his regime need heavy weapons, according to US Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who visited the country in secret earlier this week.
McCain added that the rebels are in need of the weapons, along with ammunition, in order to counter the regime’s tanks and aircraft. He warned that, should they not received the weapons, it will impossible for the rebels to win the country’s bloody civil war.
The world has been reluctant to arm the rebels, including the United States, though they have been watching the conflict closely. Several Western countries, including the US, have been supplying rebel forces with humanitarian aid.
But McCain asserted that the opposition forces need more than first aid and food supplies. He stated on Friday, “They just can’t fight tanks with AK-47s.”
The Republican senator and former presidential candidate made a secret, unannounced trip to Syria on Monday, traveling across the border through Kilis, Turkey. He spent about two hours with rebel leaders. McCain has also been very vocal in Congress about his support of arming the Syrian rebels.
McCain added that he arranged the trip with the help of Deputy Secretary of State William Burns. He added that he spoke to Secretary of State John Kerry before the trip, but never mentioned the secret trip to Syria. He explained, “It wasn’t that I was hiding it from him; it just didn’t seem to come up. I thought Burns was the right guy to go through. They were very important in the trip.”
But despite McCain and other conservative lawmakers pushing for the United States to arm Syrian rebels, the Obama administration has been reluctant to give in to the demands. Their main concern is that the weapons could fall into the wrong hands in the volatile region. The Syrian rebels have the support of several radical Islamist groups, including one that has direct ties to al Qaeda.
But McCain, who stated that he discussed what types of weapons the rebels need to win the war, had a rebuttal to the administration’s concerns. He explained, “I’m confident that they could get the weapons into the right hand and there’s no doubt that they need some kind of capability to reverse the battlefield situation, which right now is in favor of Assad.”
The Syrian conflict began more than two ears ago and has killed more than 70,000 people. President Obama and other world leaders have demanded that President Assad step down from power in the country. But the leader has refused, saying he will only cede power if he loses the 2014 election.