Senator John McCain (R-AZ) reportedly erupted at a private meeting with Syrian Christians after they complained about Islamist rebel attacks on churches and the Christian minority. The display prompted Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to apologize for McCain’s behavior. This is just the latest episode of McCain going to the bat for Islamists.
The source that reported the confrontation said that McCain “didn’t think the Syrian church leaders should even be allowed in the room.” After furiously leaving the conference room, he returned and would not even look at the Syrian Christian delegation.
Approximately 10% of Syria’s population is Christian and it was a protected minority before the arrival of jihadist groups in Syria. Though some Christians support the rebel cause — atrocities have been committed by both the rebels and the regime against Christians — far more violence is perpetrated by the Islamist rebels. The Christians’ fear for their future has prevented the community from endorsing the rebellion, which has angered Islamist rebels that consider such silence an endorsement of Assad.
McCain is a prominent supporter of U.S. military intervention in Syria on behalf of the rebel forces. While secular rebels do exist, Islamists like Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and assorted Salafists dominate the opposition forces.
McCain’s support for the rebel cause has led him to downplay the threat from its Islamist components and even to embrace discredited “experts” that share his view. In September, he hired Elizabeth O’Bagy, an expert on Syria that was fired after her lies about her resume were exposed. On Twitter, she stated that not all Islamists are extremists.
O’Bagy is a strong advocate of supporting the Syrian rebels and worked for one rebel-linked group in the U.S. named the Syrian Emergency Task Force. The group’s executive director, Mouaz Moustafa, “liked” a video on YouTube of the top Hamas leader. His “favorite videos” playlist includes other videos that support Hamas and perpetrators of terrorist attacks. Other outlets found tweets where he said he’d rather be called a member of Al-Qaeda than a supporter of Israel.
Before McCain hired O’Bagy, he warmed up to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2012. When staffers from American non-governmental organizations were charged with using illegal foreign funds to foment unrest by the Egyptian prosecutor’s office, Senators McCain and Graham visited Egypt to meet with the Brotherhood’s leadership.
Graham’s change in view was more transparent. He said, “I was very apprehensive when I heard the [Egyptian] election results. But after visiting and talking with the Muslim Brotherhood, I am hopeful that … we can have a relationship with Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood is a strong political voice.”
McCain thanked the Brotherhood for supposedly helping to get the Americans freed.
“We are encouraged by the constructive role played over the past week by the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party, the Freedom and Justice Party. Their statement of February 20 was important in helping to resolve the recent crisis,” he said.
Only one problem: The Brotherhood endorsed the Americans’ prosecution and forcefully stated that McCain had misinterpreted their position.
McCain stood against cutting aid to Egypt after the Brotherhood solidified its grip on the country by winning the presidency. He stood against the Egyptian military when it overthrew the Brotherhood at the request of the Egyptian people. He then called on President Obama to sever some aid to Egypt in retaliation, and he later did. Once the Egyptian government cracked down on the Brotherhood, McCain and Graham called for the release of imprisoned Brotherhood leaders.
The new Egyptian government and its secular supporters (the very Egyptians we should be embracing) were vocally outraged at McCain. A senior Egyptian government official said McCain was “irresponsible,” though an alternative translation of the Arabic could be “moronic.”
Before that, McCain led the charge against the members of Congress that asked for investigations into the influence of Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups and individuals in the U.S. government. He particularly went on the offence at the mentioning of well-documented Islamist ties of Huma Abedin, then-Secretary of State Clinton’s Deputy Chief of Staff.
He blasted it as “an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman, a dedicated American and loyal public servant.” McCain rallied prominent Republicans like Senator Marco Rubio, then-Senator Scott Brown, House Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Jeff Flake and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner to his side.
McCain claims to be motivated by the need to overthrow of Bashar Assad and to establish democracy in Syria, but the fact remains that he is supporting extremists like the Brotherhood and the Syrian Islamist rebels and is hostile to those who are being persecuted by them, like the Syrian Christians.
Those extremists have an ideology which, for example, oppresses women and persecutes religious minorities – hardly the tenets from which democracy is made.
Ryan Mauro is the ClarionProject.org’s National Security Analyst, a fellow with the Clarion Project and is frequently interviewed on top-tier TV stations as an expert on counterterrorism and Islamic extremism.