On Sunday three members of the US Congress showed up in Syria’s anti-government stronghold of Idlib, in the northwest of the war-torn country.
Their brief trip marked the first such visit of US lawmakers to the same “rebel”-held territory since the late Senator John McCain’s infamous 2013 trip, wherein he came under fire for posing with fighters linked to al-Qaeda who had previously kidnapped Lebanese civilians.
This new Congressional delegation to Idlib included reps Ben Cline of Virginia, French Hill of Arkansas and Scott Fitzgerald of Wisconsin—all of them Republicans. They reportedly crossed into Syria from Turkey via the Bab al-Salama crossing in northern Aleppo province for the one-hour trip.
During their brief journey across the border, the US lawmakers met with Raed Saleh, head of the White Helmets, which has long been accused of being Syrian al-Qaeda’s own ‘rescue force’.
Ironically, the whole endeavor was organized and sponsored by Syrian Emergency Task Force—the very same US-based lobby group responsible for McCain’s 2013 PR disaster where he shook hands with jihadist kidnappers.
McCain’s office later conceded it was “regrettable” that there had been war criminals among the Syrian oppositionists he had posed with.
Sen. Rand Paul had in the midst of the controversy accused McCain of having met with ISIS. So-called Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters had during 2012-2013 often joined operations with ISIS and al-Qaeda militants, to the point that the various jihadist factions were overlapping and indistinguishable.
While the particular group McCain was “palling around with” wasn’t ISIS per se, it was later proven by independent analysts that the group he met with, called “Northern Storm Brigade”, had indeed fought alongside and cooperated with ISIS terrorists.
The Syrian Emergency Task Force has long been an advocate for overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and was instrumental for years in swaying Congress in favor of sending hundreds of millions of dollars worth of weaponry to anti-Assad insurgents.
This weapons pipeline throughout the decade-long proxy war in many cases resulted in the NATO-Gulf coalition arming ISIS and other terrorists, as has long been well-documented.
Even The Associated Press and NPR are currently acknowledging that Idlib is under the control of US-designated terrorist groups:
“Control of northwest Syria is largely split between the Turkish-backed opposition groups and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group that was originally founded as an offshoot of al-Qaida and is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States,” according to a fresh AP/NPR article.
Already years ago, top US counter-ISIS officials such as Brett McGurk were on record as stating Idlib province is controlled by al-Qaeda…
Idlib is “the largest al-Qaeda safe haven” since #September11 “The approach by some of our partners to send in 10,000s of tons of weapons..may not have been the best approach” – Brett McGurk, Joe Biden’s current National Security Council coordinator for MENA  #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/nN804kZExH
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 10, 2021
So reading between the lines, the Associated Press is itself acknowledging that three sitting Congress members just conducted an advocacy trip to Al-Qaeda held territory in Syria. This is indeed a return to the days of regime change warmonger John McCain.
McCain, it should be remembered, was years ago blasted by his own constituency for supporting a “rebel” movement that was beheading Syrian Christians and others…
Currently, at a moment much of the Syrian population is struggling under the strangling effects of US-led sanctions as well as the American occupation of the country’s oil and gas-rich provinces in the northeast, limited anti-government protests are popping up in some pockets of Syria, especially in the south.
Western officials, and groups like the Syrian Emergency Task Force, are encouraging these economic-driven protests amid runaway inflation and lack of resources like electricity (in Damascus for example, most residences and businesses have electricity for only two out of every six hours). These anti-Assad activist groups still see ‘regime change’ as on the table, but are angered by Syria’s recent readmission into the Arab League and rapprochement with Gulf states like Saudi Arabia.