- Thomson Reuters
Democratic congresswoman and Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard is on a “fact-finding trip” to Syria and Lebanon, Gabbard’s spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday.
Foreign Policy first reported that the Hawaii representative visited Damascus, Syria’s capital, during her trip. The visit was kept a secret for security reasons, according to her spokeswoman.
“As a Member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, and as an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders,” Emily Latimer, Gabbard’s communications director, told Business Insider in an emailed statement.
Latimer would not comment on whether Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar Assad during her trip, saying that for security reasons Gabbard’s office would not be releasing additional details until Gabbard returns.
On December 8, Gabbard – a vocal opponent of the Obama administration’s calls for Assad to relinquish power – introduced to Congress the Stop Arming Terrorists Act, which would prohibit the US government from funding or arming extremist groups like Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Al Qaeda, and ISIS.
The bill would also halt support to members of the Islamist rebel coalition Levant Front, or Jabhat al-Shamiyah, which includes factions linked to the US-backed Free Syrian Army.
“Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has long been committed to peace and ending counterproductive, interventionist wars,” Latimer said.
Gabbard, an early supporter of Bernie Sanders, met with President-elect Donald Trump in late November to discuss how to avoid “the drumbeats of war” that may lead to US intervention in Syria, among other national-security concerns.
“Where I disagree with President-elect Trump on issues, I will not hesitate to express that disagreement,” Gabbard said in a statement about the meeting. “However, I believe we can disagree, even strongly, but still come together on issues that matter to the American people and affect their daily lives.”
Assad and his allies Russia and Iran recently recaptured Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, from rebel groups who had held on to it for nearly four years. The regime has now refocused much of its efforts on recapturing the suburbs outside Damascus, in the country’s southwest.