Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has returned from a secret “fact finding” trip to the war-torn country of Syria, Foreign Policy reported Wednesday. It’s an exceedingly rare move for a member of Congress, given the still-frequent breach of ceasefire agreements by all sides in the conflict.
A spokeswoman for the congresswoman, Emily Latimer, declined to comment to Foreign Policy on whether Gabbard had met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on her trip, citing security and logistical concerns. Latimer said that Gabbard “felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders.”
One of the few voices in Congress to openly dissent from the Obama administration’s long-held position that any resolution to the civil war in Syria must end with Assad’s ouster, Gabbard also sponsored unsuccessful legislation last year to prohibit the United States from arming Sunni militant groups in the country, which it has done in the past. She previously criticized the President for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.”
Gabbard has also emerged as one of the favored Congressional Democrats of Donald Trump and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who reportedly set up her meeting with the President-elect in November.
Gabbard, an Army veteran who served in the Iraq War, said after the meeting that she and Trump had spoken about the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other foreign policy challenges.
“I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect now before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government,” Gabbard said in a statement after that meeting.