Senator John McCain (R-AZ) appeared on Fox News on Monday and provided criticism of both the Obama administration’s handling of fighting the Islamic State and statements from Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), who told CBS News on Monday that requesting giving weapons to Syrian rebels was a poor decision.
McCain said that no Arab states are willing to provide support in fighting the Islamic State, although the State Department reported that there are several Arab states “in the discussion phase” willing to participate in airstrikes against militants in Iraq. “I have just heard, and it may be wrong, that no Arab country has agreed, Middle Eastern country, has agreed to engage in air or ground support against ISIS. This is a direct result of American indecision and lack of credibility,” McCain said. He then said that Arab states do not take Obama seriously because he compared ISIS to Yemen and Somalia.
“By the way, I could show the President targets on the map today that he could be bombing and killing ISIS people. same ones that carried out this hideous decision. Why the delay in a bombing campaign in Syria? I’d be very interested to know,” McCain continued.
Sean Hannity then began discussing the cease-fire between Syrian rebels and ISIS, to which McCain adamantly denied, saying “it’s not true, it’s not true, it’s not true. Whether- I don’t care about the report, I know these people intimately, we talk to them all the time.” It is unclear if McCain was referring to the Free Syrian Army or to Islamic State militants.
“Let me ask you about what your colleague Rand Paul said about it this morning. He said it’s a mistake to arm them, most of the arms we’ve given to the s-called moderate rebels have wound up in the hands of ISIS because ISIS simply takes it from them, or it is given them, and we mistakenly actually, uh, give it to some of the radicals,” said Hannity.
“Has Rand Paul ever been to Syria?” McCain repiled. “Has he ever met with ISIS? Has he ever met with any of these people? No, no, no. We’re going to have a fight, because it’s patently false,” McCain said. That statement may add fuel to the arguments from speculators who believe McCain met with members of ISIS and there’s photographic proof, although the rumor was never truly confirmed.
The New York Times recently reported that the photos of McCain are not with members of ISIS, based on assertions from McCain’s communication director Brian Rogers and Syrian Emergency Task Force executive director Mouaz Moustafa. Whether or not McCain indeed posed for pictures with ISIS members, the Senator has been criticized for not understanding who has aligned themselves with the group.
“As much as Senator McCain says he’s vetted these groups, we simply do not have guarantees that they won’t work with ISIS, when it serves their purpose, as they were doing a year ago. In fact, various reports continue to pour out of the region, about moderate factions striking deals with ISIS. The potential for these weapons ending up in the hands of ISIS is high,” read a press release from VoteVets.org.
“I know these people,” McCain repeated to Hannity. “I’m in contact with them all the time. And he is not. He is not. He is not.”
McCain refused to accept the reports that Syrian rebels and Islamic State militants had agreed to a nonaggression pact, and said that the Free Syrian Army continues to be attacked by both ISIS and Bashar al-Assad. “I know that we can make them strong and resilient,” said McCain.
Paul responded to McCain’s statements through the Daily Beast. “Here’s the problem. He [McCain] did meet with ISIS, and had his picture taken, and didn’t know it was happening at the time. That really shows you the quandary of determining who are the moderates and who aren’t. If you don’t speak Arabic, and you don’t understand that some people will lie to you—I really think that we don’t have a good handle on who are the moderates and who aren’t, and I think the objective evidence is that the ones doing most of the fighting and most of the battles among the rebels in Syria are the radical Islamists.”