Lebanese television station Al-Jadeed has broken the story (in Arabic) that Senator McCain, in his recent jaunt to Syria, has met with rebels who were involved in the kidnapping of Lebanese Shiite pilgrims in May 2012.
The reporter, Nawal Birri, claims that she met two of the men in the picture - Mohammad Nour and Abu Yousef - when they were escorting her television crew when she visited the Lebanese hostages last year.
A picture posted on facebook of Sen. McCain was the give-away and the news has been creating a scandal in the Middle East and is seen as evidence that the US is friendly with kidnappers and terrorists. The picture can be seen here in a photo taken in Azaz, near the Turkish border, where Senator McCain visited briefly.
According to a recent story in Al-Akhbar English, the Obama administration was aware of the trip:
"We were aware, of course, that Senator McCain was going to make this trip," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "And we look forward to speaking with Senator McCain upon his return to learn more about the trip."
At the State Department, spokesman Patrick Ventrell noted that members of Congress often travel abroad and make their policy positions known. "I don't have a particular reaction to the trip one way or another," Ventrell said.
Yes, I'm sure the administration wants to meet with Sen. McCain when he returns.
Senator McCain's office said that his trip was organised by the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a pro-opposition group based in the US:
McCain saw General Salim Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army coalition of rebel groups, as well as 18 commanders of Free Syrian Army battalions from all of Syria, the SETF website said.
"While meeting with Senator McCain, General Idris and FSA commanders asked that the United States increase its aid to the Free Syrian Army in the form of heavy weapons, a no-fly zone, and air strikes on Hezbollah," the SETF website said, referring to the Lebanese resistance group backing Assad.
Senator McCain's blundering has put the US in the same camp as kidnappers in the minds of millions in the Middle East. Like America needs more bad PR in the Middle East. Way to win hearts and minds, Senator Clueless.