Read time: 4 minutes

McCain Claims He's 'Vetted' Syrian Rebels Because He Knows Them

McCain still wants to arm the so-called "moderates" in Syria, despite the news they just struck a deal with ISIS.
Views:

John McCain was back on the air continuing to attack the Obama administration for not arming the Syrian rebels, but given the recent news that ISIS just struck a deal with these so-called "moderates," McCain might want to stop making statements like this one during interviews as he did this Saturday on Fox: McCain: I’ve Vetted Syrian Rebels, People Not Trusting Them Making ‘Excuses’:

Arming moderate rebels was a contentious debate last year in the national fight over how to deal with President Bashar al-Assad, but now a new enemy is inspiring the calls for action. John McCain, in one of his rare TV appearances, said on Fox News today that anyone saying they mistrust the Free Syrian Army is just making excuses for not taking action against ISIS.

McCain touted that he’s “vetted a number of them because I know them.” It was at that point Fox aired the infamous photo from last year of McCain and a few Syrian rebels, two of which turned out to be suspected kidnappers. [...]

McCain said today, “Hundreds and even thousands of them have been killed and slaughtered with these barrel bombs and tortured to death by Bashar Assad. They can be trusted. There are groups of them to be trusted.”

And for people not swayed by that argument, McCain threw this out: you got anything better?

“Obviously, there are some risks, but what’s our other option here? If someone who says they can’t––they don’t want to do it because we can’t trust the Free Syrian Army, then what is your option, sir and ma’am, in how we are going to attack ISIS in an effective fashion?”

The Obama administration had better be rethinking their strategy of arming these rebels as well given the recent reporting here: ISIS Strikes Deal With Moderate Syrian Rebels: Reports:

As the United States begins to deepen ties with moderate Syrian rebels to combat the extremist group ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, a key component of its coalition appears to have struck a non-aggression pact with the group.

According to Agence France-Presse, ISIS and a number of moderate and hard-line rebel groups have agreed not to fight each other so that they can focus on taking down the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Other sources say the signatories include a major U.S. ally linked to the Free Syrian Army. Moreover, the leader of the Free Syrian Army said Saturday that the group would not take part in U.S. plans for destroying the Islamic State until it got assurances on toppling Assad.

The deal between ISIS and the moderate Syrian groups casts doubt over President Barack Obama's freshly announced strategy to arm and train the groups against ISIS.

The AFP report cited information from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based group monitoring the Syrian civil war, which said parties to the agreement "promise not to attack each other because they consider the principal enemy to be the Nussayri regime." The term Nussayri refers to the Alawite ethnic group that Assad and many of his supporters belong to. AFP said the agreement was signed in a suburb of the Syrian capital, where ISIS has a strong presence.

Charles Lister, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Doha Center, cited a report from the anti-regime Orient Net website to suggest on Twitter that the signatories of the ceasefire include a U.S.-backed coalition called the Syrian Revolutionary Front. According to the U.K.-based outlet Middle East Eye, that same Orient Net report says the ceasefire between groups described in the U.S. as "moderate rebels" and the Islamic State was mediated by the al-Nusra Front, al Qaeda's affiliate in Syria. [...]

"These guys are all starved for arms," Landis said. "They don’t want to go get themselves killed by fighting ISIS until they figure out where Obama is."

That turns a conflict that the White House hopes is three-sided -- with radical Sunnis, moderate Sunnis and Assad all battling each other -- into a sectarian, two-sided war of Sunnis against Assad. Reports already suggest that Syrians who entered the civil war opposing Assad are now turning to ISIS as their best bet for a different kind of government.

Rhodes warned that a wrong move by the U.S. may lead to that precise perception and reality. Read on...

McCain can claim he's "vetted" these people all he wants, but the truth of the matter is as the article notes at the end, "the news of a ceasefire proves Washington does not know who it can support or trust within the fractured country."


↓ Story continues below ↓

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.