US Official Visits Syrian Rebels—Are Weapons Next?

Will US government arm Syrian rebels? US Capitol building. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

Will US government arm Syrian rebels? US Capitol building. Illustrative. By Joshua Spurlock

Syrian rebels need weapons in their country’s civil war, and so far the Americans have chosen not to give them. But one of the US officials who has urged the Americans arm the rebels, US Senator John McCain, visited the Syrian rebel leadership on Monday. It’s unclear now if it’s an indication of something to come, but either way it raises the pressure on the Obama administration to think about sending the rebels weapons.

The visit came the same day the European Union decided not to continue an embargo on weapons being sent to the Syrian rebels, opening the door to European countries eventually arming the opposition. If the US or Europe can help the rebels topple the Syrian regime and end the fight sooner, that’s better for the region… and you.

The New York Times reported McCain met with the head of the military wing of the Supreme Military Council, General Salim Idris. The content of McCain’s conversation with Idris was not disclosed. The secretive nature of the visit, which was ultimately confirmed by McCain’s spokesman, raises more questions.

Is the US gathering information before sending weapons to the Syrian rebels? Or is it just a political move by McCain to pressure President Barack Obama into doing more to help the rebels?

At this point it is unclear if McCain was visiting on his own, or as an emissary of the US. McCain is one of Obama’s strongest critics, making him an unlikely representative.

The ongoing Syrian civil war should have you concerned for a number of reasons. For one thing, the violence is impacting multiple other countries already and threatening to start a new Middle East war. That could force the US and Europe to get involved as they did in Libya—so are you ready for another full-fledge war?

Second, conflict in the region can cause oil markets to get nervous and ultimately raise gas prices. Third, it is feared that terrorists could use the chaos in Syria to acquire chemical weapons that can kill mass numbers of people. Lastly, the longer the Syrian war continues, the more international funds are needed for the humanitarian crisis there. Already the US has promised $500 million and counting for aid and “non-lethal” support for the Syrian opposition.

It didn’t take long for the secret to get out regarding McCain’s trip to Syria—which makes it appear at least partly an effort to raise political pressure on Obama to change his stance on Syria. Another US Senator and friend of McCain—Lindsay Graham—Tweeted his “best wishes” to McCain in Syria on Monday evening.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, May 28, 2013)

What do you think?