John McCain reportedly sneaked into Syria to meet with rebel leaders, calls for no-fly zone renewed
By End the Lie
According to a report, Sen. John McCain entered Syria unannounced (and probably without permission) to meet with leaders of the Free Syrian Army who called for the U.S. to openly provide heavy weapons, a no-fly zone and airstrikes on Hezbollah and Syrian government forces.
Keep in mind, the United States is already providing weapons to Syrian rebels and the calls for a no-fly zone are hardly new.
However, given the increasingly prominent role played by Hezbollah and the potential of spillover into Lebanon, the calls for targeting of the Shi’ite group are noteworthy.
Yet most important of all is that McCain actually met with the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army and in doing so, associated himself with a group that previously told their forces to cooperate with the terrorist organization Jabhat al-Nusra.
If the kind of broad definitions outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 and 2013 were applied to McCain, he could easily be indefinitely detained for “substantially support[ing] al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.”
While the FSA has attempted to distance itself from al-Nusra, it clearly remains an associated force and is, according to the Guardian “the best-equipped, financed and motivated force fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime.”
Of course, McCain will likely never be held responsible for what he is doing, just as he was not held responsible for openly supporting terrorists in Libya.
Salem Idris, leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, met with McCain and praised him for the visit in an interview with the Daily Beast.
“The visit of Senator McCain to Syria is very important and very useful especially at this time,” Idris said. “We need American help to have change on the ground; we are now in a very critical situation.”
“What we want from the U.S. government is to take the decision to support the Syrian revolution with weapons and ammunition, anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft weapons,” Idris said. “Of course we want a no-fly zone and we ask for strategic strikes against Hezbollah both inside Lebanon and inside Syria.”
Furthermore, Idris wants to provide the same type of aid that absolutely destroyed Libya. Perhaps most amazingly, he wants the U.S. to attack Lebanon when it would be nothing more than an unprovoked strike on a sovereign nation without real justification.
While the Obama administration is apparently attempting to push the Syrian rebels to attend a conference in Geneva to negotiate with the Syrian government, Idris once again rejected peace talks without preconditions that will never be met.
“We are with Geneva if it means that [Syrian President] Bashar [al Assad] will resign and leave the country and the military officials of the regime will be brought to justice,” Idris said.
That essentially means that unless the government agrees to dissolve itself before the talks begin, they won’t participate in the talks. Such an approach from the Syrian opposition is nothing new and has continuously shot down any possibility of peaceful negotiation.
According to the Daily Beast, McCain and Idris held separate meetings with “two groups of FSA commanders and their Civil Revolutionary Council counterparts” in Gaziantep, Turkey.
The trip was reportedly coordinated with assistance from the Syrian Emergency Task Foce, an American non-profit group that works on behalf of the Syrian rebels.
Two leaders of the group were present at all of the meetings and told the Daily Beast that the rebels don’t have enough ammunition or “effective weapons to counter the regime’s use of airpower.”
They also claimed that a growing number of Russian military advisers are present in Damascus along with Iranian and Iraqi fighters.
Hezbollah has taken over the regime’s role in fighting rebels in Homs, they claim, saying that four to seven thousand Hezbollah fighters are present in and around the city.
“This was the start of a really important engagement between various forces in the U.S. government and people in the civilian and armed opposition who are working together to fight for a free Syria,” said Elizabeth O’Bagy, the political director for the Syrian Emergency Task Force.
“Senator McCain proved today you can very easily go and meet with these people,” O’Bagy said. “He’s the first U.S. senator to step foot in free Syria and one of the first government officials to reach out to the FSA officials and that’s a huge step.”
U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford – who previously stepped far out of his role as Ambassador to openly criticize Assad and meet with prominent opposition members – also slipped into Syria while on a trip to Turkey earlier this month.
Despite the massive amount of support provided by the United States to the rebels, they contend that it isn’t enough.
“They voiced their frustration at the policy of the U.S., because they believe that it’s in the interest of both the U.S. and Syria for the right people to be armed,” said Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force.
“We need to increase the frequency of these types of visits by senior-level policy makers,” Moustafa said. “It’s the best way to know who we are arming and to know who we are really dealing with.”
All of this comes as British Foreign Secretary William Hague just announced that the European Union has agreed to lift the arms embargo on the Syrian opposition.
While McCain refused to comment on this most recent visit, in an unrelated interview with the Daily Beast last week McCain made some strong statements about Syria.
“I’ve been known to be an optimist, but here are the Russians sending them up-to-date missiles, continued flights of arms going into Syria, Putin keeps our secretary of State waiting for three hours … It doesn’t lend itself to optimism, all it does is delay us considering doing what we really need to do,” McCain said. “The reality is that Putin will only abandon Assad when he thinks that Assad is losing. Right now, at worst it’s a stalemate. In the view of some, he is succeeding.”
As CBS News points out, just last week the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “passed a bill that would approve sending weapons to moderate rebels forces [sic].”
As the situation in Syria looks increasingly grim and the potential for regional spillover seems more likely than ever, it is important to keep an eye on the situation. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
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