McCain’s trip coincided with President Trump’s memorandum to prepare a plan to “defeat” ISIS within the next 30 days.
(ANALYSIS) — Despite his experience as a U.S. veteran and prisoner of war, Arizona Senator John McCain is about as pro-war as they come. While he faded from view somewhat following his failed bid for the presidency in 2008, McCain remains a very active senator, particularly in regards to the Syrian conflict that has raged on for the better part of six years. Since the the conflict began in 2011, McCain – along with many other establishment politicians – has been resolute in his call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down. He has repeatedly argued that regime change in the embattled nation is a necessity and has openly supported U.S. military intervention in Syria to remove Assad from power.
Indeed, McCain has been so committed to removing Assad from power that he even fostered ties with the shadier parts of the Syrian opposition, including both its “moderate rebels” and more notorious factions such as the Islamic State. Photographic evidence has confirmed this, with one infamous photo showing McCain posing with Khalid al-Hamad – a “moderate” rebel who gained notoriety after a video of him eating the heart of a Syrian Army soldier went viral online. McCain has even admitted meeting with ISIS, going so far as to acknowledge that he is still in contact with the infamous terrorist group. While this may seem mind-boggling to some, the Arizona Senator’s connections to ISIS and other terrorist elements in the Syrian opposition makes perfect sense considering his strong commitment to deposing Assad and the U.S.’ role in covertly creating ISIS in the first place.
However, recent months have thrown a wrench in the plans of those hoping to see Assad removed from power by opposition forces. Assad’s retaking of Aleppo last December was a demoralizing defeat for ISIS and the Syrian opposition and, in the months since, Assad and his Russian allies have advanced on the last remaining ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. In addition, President Trump – who campaigned on partnering with both Assad and Russia to eliminate ISIS – recently issued a Presidential Memorandum that gave Secretary of Defense James Mattis 30 days to draw up a military plan to counter ISIS, declaring that “it is the policy of the United States that ISIS be defeated.”
It is under this backdrop that Sen. McCain decided to recently take an “unusual” secret trip to Syria. The Senator’s office confirmed the trip on Wednesday, stating that McCain had “traveled to northern Syria last week to visit U.S. forces deployed there and to discuss the counter-ISIL campaign and ongoing operations to retake Raqqa.” McCain also met with Turkish President Erdogan before returning to the U.S. from Syria where the U.S. support of Kurdish fighters in Northern Syria, which Erdogan fiercely opposes.
While McCain has officially explained his visit as being related to “countering” ISIS, his documented ties to the organization suggest that there may be more to this “unusual” trip than is being made public. With the Syrian opposition quickly losing ground it is unlikely that neo-conservatives like McCain plan to sit idly by as the “moderate” and terrorist rebel factions are decimated by Assad and his allies. Could McCain’s trip have served an alternative purpose to that which was publicly stated? We’ll find out soon enough.
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