Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Republican McCain meets with Syria rebels

28 May 2013, 09:03

Washington - Republican Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate and an outspoken advocate for US military aid to the Syrian opposition, met with some of the rebels during a surprise visit to the war-torn country on Monday, his spokesperson said.

Spokesperson Brian Rogers confirmed McCain's meeting with the rebels, but declined to give any details about the visit, which may fuel pressure on Washington to intervene in a conflict that is believed to have claimed 80 000 lives.

The visit came as US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pledged to do their utmost to bring Syria's warring parties together, and new allegations surfaced about chemical weapons use in the civil war.

General Salem Idris, who leads the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, told the Daily Beast in an interview that McCain's visit came at a critical time for the rebels, who have stepped up their calls for US support, including heavy weapons, creation of a no-fly zone and air strikes.

"The visit of Senator McCain to Syria is very important and very useful especially at this time," the publication quoted Idris as saying. "We need American help to have change on the ground; we are now in a very critical situation."

McCain is the highest-ranking US official to visit Syria since Robert Ford, the US ambassador to Syria, crossed the border into northern Syria to meet with Syrian opposition leaders earlier this month.

No White House comment

It was not immediately clear if McCain, a fierce critic of the Obama administration's handling of the Syrian crisis, told government leaders about his plans to visit the country.

The White House had no immediate comment.

A senior State Department official, in Paris with Kerry, confirmed that McCain did "cross into Syrian territory" but referred all questions to McCain's office.

McCain entered Syria from the country's border with Turkey and stayed there for several hours before returning to Turkey, according to the Daily Beast report. It said McCain met with assembled leaders of Free Syrian Army units in both Turkey and Syria.

McCain, who made a similar visit to Libya early in that conflict, called for US military aid to the forces opposing Syrian President Bashar Assad in a Time magazine column earlier this month, arguing that the cost of inaction outweighed the cost of intervention.

"The US does not have to act alone, put boots on the ground or destroy every Syrian air-defence system to make a difference," McCain wrote, arguing that training for the rebels, targeted air strikes and the stationing of Patriot missiles just across the border would help change the current dynamic.

Wary of another war

McCain recalled his support for a US-led effort under then President Bill Clinton to stop mass atrocities in Bosnia two decades ago and said the United States was uniquely positioned to help in Syria as well.

"Taking these steps would save innocent lives, give the moderate opposition a better chance to succeed and eventually provide security and responsible governance in Syria after Assad," he wrote in the Time magazine article. "However, the longer we wait, the worse the situation gets."

The Obama administration has increased humanitarian aid but has stopped short of providing lethal assistance to Syrian opposition forces. The president has resisted pressure to deepen US involvement in Syria, wary of getting US forces embroiled in another ground war just as American troops are preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan.

A US Senate panel voted overwhelmingly last week to send weapons to forces fighting the Syrian government, but the Pentagon remains concerned about Assad's ability to shoot down enemy aircraft with surface-to-air missiles, particularly in a sustained campaign.

The Pentagon estimates than Syria has five times more air defences than those that existed in Libya, where the United States helped establish a no-fly zone in 2011. They are also far more densely packed and sophisticated.

In Libya, there were no Western casualties. But the risks are higher in Syria and it's unclear whether the war-weary American public - exhausted by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - would tolerate US casualties.

- Reuters


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...