Politics

Sen. John McCain Meets With Rebel Leaders In Syria

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A prominent member of the U.S. government snuck across the border while visiting Turkey and met with rebel leaders in neighboring Syria.

Sen. John McCain’s visit was planned for weeks and it is believed that he was in Syria for just about an hour. Mouaz Mustafa, the executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, was with McCain along with at least two security guards.

"It's something the senator has wanted to do for quite some time because he's pro-active on the subject of the U.S. being more directly involved in Syria and helping to create the necessary changes on the ground to end the conflict," Mustafa said.

The leader of the Syrian rebels, Gen. Salem Idris, was happy to meet with McCain.

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“The visit of Senator McCain to Syria is very important and very useful especially at this time,” he said, according to The Daily Beast. “We need American help to have change on the ground; we are now in a very critical situation.”

Gen. Idris detailed what the rebels want from the U.S.

“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. Of course we want a no-fly zone and we ask for strategic strikes against Hezbollah both inside Lebanon and inside Syria.”

The Obama administration has been hoping to convince the Syrian opposition to attend an international conference at Geneva in June, CBS News reported.

“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.

"McCain's trip may help to strengthen, rather than weaken, the Obama administration's interest in working with Russia on the U.N. led-peace talks scheduled for mid-June," said CBS News Foreign Affairs Analyst Pamela Falk. "By trying to engage the rebels, in particular the Free Syrian Army, McCain may be showing American support that the administration feels it cannot, and help bring the opposition to the table.”

Sources: CBS News, The Daily Beast