Tulsi Gabbard, who announced earlier this month she would run for president in 2020 has defended her decision to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad two years ago.
Speaking on Sunday with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union”, the Democratic Rep. said she didn’t regret having met Assad.
“I think that it is, it continues to be very important for any leader in this country to be willing to meet with others, whether they be friends or adversaries or potential adversaries if we are serious about the pursuit of peace and securing our country”, Gabbard told Tapper.
Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, explained that she had witnessed the plight of the Middle East firsthand and “the cost of war”:
“You know, Jake, you – you often acknowledge and bring to the forefront the cost of war and our troops and who pays the price. And, as a veteran, you know I have been serving in the Army National Guard now for 15 years and continue to serve, served on two Middle East deployments. I have seen this cost of war firsthand, which is why I fight so hard for peace. And that’s the reality of the situation that we’re facing here”.
Gabbard’s stance on the Syrian president remained unchanged, with her recent comments echoing another interview with Tapper, soon after meeting Assad in 2017:
“Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the President of Syria. In order for any peace agreement, in order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur there has to be a conversation with him”, she said at the time.
Nearly two weeks ago, Gabbard drew an avalanche of criticism over her view about US involvement in Syria, the 2017 meeting with Assad and LGBTQ+ rights after announcing she would be running for the White House in 2020.
Two years ago, she made an unexpected “fact-finding” trip to Syria and held a meeting with Assad.
“When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that’s exactly what we talked about”, the lawmaker said of the sit-down.
She drew much flak from both Democrats and Republicans, who view Assad as a war criminal and accuse him of using chemical weapons against civilians – something which Damascus has consistently denied and dismissed as false flag attacks.