Tulsi Gabbard Discusses Meeting Bashar al-Assad: Syrians Beg U.S. Not To Support “So-Called Rebel Groups” And Terrorists

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

Tulsi Gabbard in Syria and Lebanon to see and hear directly from the Syrian people.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), the former Democratic National Committee member who resigned as a result of the feud between party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Bernie Sanders supporters during last year’s election, just returned from Syria, where she surreptitiously met with that country’s president Bashar al-Assad. She spoke to CNN’s Jake Tapper to reveal what happened on her trip:

“Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him,” she said about Assad. “Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria. In order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him.”

“I’ll tell you what I heard from the Syrian people,” she continued. “As they were walking down the streets in Aleppo, in Damascus… they expressed happiness and joy at seeing an American walking through their streets. But they expressed a question. They said: ‘Why is it that the United States, its allies and other countries, are providing support, are providing arms, to terrorist groups, like al-Nusra, al-Qeeda, ISIS, who are on the ground there, raping, kidnapping, torturing and killing the Syrian people?’ Children, men, women, people of all ages.”

“They asked me: Why is the United States and its allies supporting these terrorist groups who are destroying Syria when it was al-Qaeda who attacked the United States on 9/11, not Syria?”

“I didn’t have an answer for them,” she said.

She talked about how nobody knows who the U.S.-supported rebels really are: “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?”

“The Syrian people recognize, and they know, that if President Assad is overthrown, a group like ISIS or al-Qaeda… will take charge of all of Syria.”




Full transcript:

JAKE TAPPER: So you were in Syria for four days — did you meet with President Bashar al-Assad?

REP. TULSI GABBARD: I did.

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

I wanted to see if there was some small way that I could express the love, the aloha and the care that the American people have for the people of Syria, and to see first hand what was happening there, to see the situation there.

TAPPER: What did Assad have to say?

GABBARD: Initially I hadn’t planned on meeting him. 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, we have 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.

TAPPER: Now, I know the maxim that people say in the military, that you don’t make peace with your friend, you make peace with your enemies. But obviously Bashar al-Assad is responsible for thousands of deaths and millions of people being displaced during this five-year long civil war. Did you have any compunctions about meeting with somebody 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, 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. The Syrian people will determine his outcome and what happens with their government and their future.

But our focus, my focus, my commitment, is on ending this war that has caused so much suffering to these syrian people, to these children, these families, many of whom I met on this trip. It’s important for us to stay focused on doing what is in their best interest, and what is in our best interest. And doing what is necessary to make that happen.

TAPPER: So, congressman Adam Kinzinger, a friend of yours, also a military veteran, a Republican, he said on Twitter when he heard about your visit, quote: “Fact finding mission, 50,000 dead, children in Syria, Tulsi Gabbard, I hope you didn’t meet with their butcher Assad.”

He has used chemical weapons on his own people. You said it is going to be up to the Syrian people. There really aren’t free and fair elections in Syria.

GABBARD: I’ll tell you what I heard from the Syrian people, walking down the streets in Aleppo, in Damascus, hearing from them, they expressed happiness and joy at seeing an American walking through their streets. But they expressed a question. They said: “Why is it that the United States, its allies and other countries, are providing support, are providing arms, to terrorist groups, like al-Nusra, al-Qeeda, ISIS, who are on the ground there, raping, kidnapping, torturing and killing the Syrian people? Children, men, women, people of all ages.

They asked me: Why is the United States and its allies supporting these terrorist groups who are destroying Syria when it was al-Qaeda who attacked the United States on 9/11, not Syria? I didn’t have an answer for them.

TAPPER: Obviously the United States government denies providing any sort of help to the terrorist groups you’re talking about. They say they provide help for the rebel groups.

GABBARD: The reality is, Jake, the reality Is– and I’m glad you brought up that point because this is an often talked about thing by people like Adam Kenzinger, and others, saying we have to support the moderate rebels. 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 names of these groups, the strongest fighting force on the ground in Syria is al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, and ISIS. There is a number of other groups, all of them essentially are fighting with, or under the command of the strongest group on the ground, that is trying to overthrow Assad.

The Syrian people recognize and they know that if President Assad is overthrown, than a group like ISIS or al-Qaeda, that has been killing Christians, killing people simply because of their religion, or because they won’t support their terror activities, they will take charge of all of Syria.

This is the reality of the situation on the ground in Syria, and why they are pleading with us in the United States to stop supporting these terrorist groups, let the Syrian people themselves determine their future.

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