- Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on Wednesday said she does not believe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is an “enemy of the United States.”
- “Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States,” Gabbard said.
- Gabbard, who is running for president in 2020, has taken a staunchly anti-interventionist stance when it comes to Syria.
- She’s faced criticism over a visit with Assad in 2017, among other statements she’s made on Syria.
Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who’s running for president in 2020, on Wednesday doubled-down on her opposition to the US intervention in Syria, but also likely provided ammunition to critics of her foreign policy stance.
Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Gabbard declared that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an accused war criminal, is “not the enemy of the United States.”
“Assad is not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States,” Gabbard said.
— Kasie DC (@KasieDC) February 6, 2019
These remarks could haunt Gabbard along the campaign trail given some of the previous criticism she’s faced on the subject of Syria and Assad.
While the argument could also be made that Syria and Assad are not technically combatants of the US – as war has not been declared against the country – the US has been actively working against the Syrian leader for some time. In this sense, Assad is not officially an “enemy” of the US government.
But Assad has allied with America’s geopolitical adversaries, Russia and Iran, and is widely believed to be behind horrendous atrocities in Syria. In this capacity, many would likely contend that Assad is at the very least someone who stands against US interests and values.
President Barack Obama drew a red line in Syria on the use of chemical weapons and in 2013 made the case for a military strike against Assad after evidence of their use against civilians emerged. But, lacking support in Congress and among the US public, he ultimately did not take military actions against Assad.
The Trump administration has launched missile strikes against Assad in response to intelligence pointing to the use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians. Gabbard has been critical of the airstrikes.
Gabbard sparked controversy in 2017 when she visited Assad, a move that was broadly criticised by politicians on both sides of the aisle. The Hawaii congresswoman compounded that criticism when she subsequently expressed scepticism over reports Assad had used chemical weapons.
Gabbard did not seem fazed by criticism of her position on Syria following the interview.
“We heard attacks from warmongers in politics/media before. Those opposed to Iraq/Libya/Syria regime change wars are called ‘dictator-lovers’ or ‘cosy’ with evil regimes,” Gabbard tweeted on Wednesday. “Rather than defend their position, they resort to name-calling & smears. American people wont fall for this.”
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