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McCain: 'Has Rand Paul ever been to Syria?'

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainCindy McCain planning 'intimate memoir' of life with John McCain Trump-McConnell rift divides GOP donors Arkansas state senator says he's leaving Republican Party MORE (R-Ariz.) on Monday night said it is "patently false" that arms supplied to vetted Syrian rebels have ended up the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

McCain pushed back on his colleague, Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: 50 million coronavirus vaccines given | Pfizer news | Biden health nominees Rand Paul criticized for questioning of transgender health nominee Haley isolated after Trump fallout MORE (R-Ky.), who made the assertion Monday as evidence it is unwise to expand U.S. support to rebels to fight ISIS. 

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"Has Rand Paul ever been to Syria? Has he ever met with ISIS? Has he ever met with any of these people? No, no, no," McCain said on Fox News. "We're going to have a fight, because it's patently false. This is the same Rand Paul that said we didn't want to have anything to do with anything to do in the Middle East, by the way. I don't want to get in a fight with him at all."

The Arizona senator said there are no good options but asked what the alternative could be if the United States decided not to arm vetted groups — "no resistance whatsoever?" he asked.  

A proposal to arm and train vetted groups in Syria is expected to be voted on Wednesday in the House after President Obama made the request last week.  

McCain also pushed back on reports that moderate Syrian rebels had brokered a nonaggression pact over the weekend with the terrorist group, calling it "not true."

"I'm saying I know for a fact that the Free Syrian Army is being attacked by both [Syrian President] Bashar Assad and by ISIS, and they have suffered hundreds of casualties at the hands of both," he said. 

Separately, McCain speculated that the administration has not yet received a commitment from a single Arab nation to help with airstrikes — contradicting earlier reports from the White House. 

"But let me say, 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. 

Multiple media outlets quoted administration officials Monday saying a number of Arab countries had agreed, without naming the countries.  

"I’m not prepared to be in a position to make announcements for these countries that may be contemplating commitments," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said when asked about the reports Monday.