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Democrat says Syrians told her the truth about 'moderate rebels' in secret meeting with Assad

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). Image Source: YouTube.

Democratic Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii made some shocking claims to Jake Tapper on CNN Wednesday in an appearance detailing her secret meeting with Bashar al-Assad, the president of war-torn Syria.

“My reason for going to visit Syria was really because of the suffering of the Syrian people that has been weighing heavily on my heart," she explained.

When Tapper asked about whether she had reservations about meeting with Assad and thereby legitimizing his controversial presidency, she seemed to carefully affirm his tenuous claim to power.

"Obviously Assad is responsible for thousands of deaths and millions of people being displaced during this five year long civil war," Tapper began. "Did you have any compunctions about meeting with someone like that giving him any sort of enhanced credibility because a member of the United States Congress would meet with someone like that?"

“Whatever you think about President Assad,” she answered, adding, “the fact is that he is the president of Syria. In order for any peace agreement, in order for any possibility of a viable piece agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him. The Syrian people will determine his outcome and what happens with their government, and their future."

When Tapper asked about moderate rebels in Syria fighting against Assad, Gabbard dismissed the very concept.

Every place that I went, every person that I spoke to, I asked this question to them, and without hesitation they said, 'there are no moderate rebels, who are these moderate rebels that people keep speaking of?' Regardless of the name of these groups, the strongest fighting force on the ground in Syria is al-Nusra, or al-Qaeda, or ISIS, that is a fact...

This is contentious issue because certain segments of Congress have advocated arming the more moderate of the rebels fighting against Assad, while others say there are no such moderates and that these arms would just fall to extremists like ISIS or al-Qaeda. Clearly, Rep. Gabbard is in the latter camp.

The exchange highlights one of the more difficult foreign policy legacies that former President Obama leaves to President Trump. Republicans have hounded Obama for pronouncing "Assad must go,' and then allowing him to thumb his nose at America for five years while exacerbating the refugee crisis. The United States has accused Assad of war crimes, including the use of banned chemical weapons against the civilians in rebel-held regions.

This isn't the first time Rep. Gabbard has advocated this position, but her seeking to strengthen her case by meeting with Assad is unusual. In 2015 she told Jake Tapper that we should not be seeking to topple Assad and that perhaps ISIS might not be as strong if the U.S. had kept from toppling other Middle East dictators. Gabbard also defended Trump on the nomination of military generals to his administration, citing her own military service as a reason for her opinion.

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