In May of 2013, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for the U.S. to aid Syrian rebel groups and even traveled to meet with Gen. Salim Idris, the then leader of the Free Syrian Army.
He also took a few photos.
Some are speculating that some of the people in this picture might now be members of the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant (ISIL or ISIS), the extremist group now taking over major cities in Iraq.
Gen. Idris, the man in the striped shirt, was removed as leader of the Free Syrian Army because some members believed he was “ineffective” and others because he was too “moderate.”
If it was the latter, then this supports the idea that ISIL may have been involved.
The leader of ISIL, Abr Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been said to have been kicked out of al-Qaeda for being too radical.
Some reports say — albeit with little substantiation or sourcing — that this photo is being “circulated by ISIL as proof of their legitimacy.”
Jonathon Vankin of Inquisitr contested the photo’s legitimacy:
The same sites claim that these same Syrian rebels have since gone on to join ISIL and are now waging brutal civil war inside Iraq. But the fact is, there is no way to directly connect the people posing in the photo with John McCain to ISIL — though ISIL itself does claim to represent rebel forces in Syria as well as in Iraq. There has also been no independent confirmation that ISIL is actually circulating the photos of McCain itself.
Whether it’s true or untrue that these men went on to join ISIL there is no questioning that the U.S. was largely ignorant about who the Syrian rebels were when politicians like McCain flocked to their aid.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) warned a year ago of the dangers inherent to — ironically — aiding allies of al-Qaeda to take down the dictator Bashar al-Assad, which he pointed out again a month ago in an op-ed for National Review.
“Our current policies regarding military aid to Syria simply do not make sense, yet this administration and many in Congress continue to remain completely deaf,” he wrote. “Washington needs to hear the message loud and clear — again — concerning Syria: We do not know who these people are!”
“Make no mistake: Bashar al-Assad is a brutal dictator guilty of unspeakable crimes against humanity. But the same is true for many of the rebel groups trying to oust him,” he added.
“The civil war in Syria is a horrible tragedy, but the U.S. simply has no ally in that war.”
Sen. McCain has called for airstrikes in Iraq though he did admit to Politico, “it’s very hard to ascertain which target to hit.”