House Democrat Makes Secret ‘Fact-Finding’ Trip to Syria

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, (D., Hawaii) / AP
• January 18, 2017 5:47 pm


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D., Hawaii) departed from Damascus on Wednesday after traveling to the Middle East on an undisclosed "fact-finding trip" intended to help end Syria's nearly six-year conflict.

Gabbard's office did not provide advanced warning to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) or House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) regarding the trip to Syria despite standard practice.

An aide to Gabbard told Foreign Policy that for security reasons the office would not release details of the visit, including whether the Democratic congresswoman met with President Bashar al-Assad.

"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," Gabbard spokeswoman Emily Latimer said in a statement.

Gabbard, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, has opposed the Obama administration's call for regime change in Syria, charging that it would further destabilize Damascus and undermine the fight against the Islamic State and al Qaeda.

The Assad regime has reportedly bombed civilians in its fight against rebel groups and used chemical weapons during the Syrian conflict, which has killed about half a million people.

Earlier this month, Gabbard introduced legislation that would bar the federal government from providing funding and weapons to Sunni rebel groups working to overthrow the Assad regime. Upon announcing the Stop Arming Terrorist Act, Gabbard charged the U.S. government of "quietly supporting" allies of al Qaeda and ISIS with "weapons and intelligence support."

President Obama and congressional leaders have countered that the conflict in Syria cannot be resolved while Assad remains in power.

Gabbard's position has found support from President-elect Donald Trump, who has also been outspoken against a U.S. policy backing regime change in Syria.

Gabbard met with Trump in November, where they discussed "current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS," according to a statement from her office.

Published under: Bashar al-Assad, Syria