Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu Congresswoman, has said that she does not regret her 2017 meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons to attack civilians in his country’s years-long civil war.
Gabbard, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told CNN in an interview on Sunday that American leaders must meet foreign leaders “if we are serious about the pursuit of peace and securing our country”.
She was earlier criticized for voicing skepticism that the Assad regime was behind the chemical weapons attacks.
Asked whether she regretted the meeting with the Syrian leader, Gabbard said: “No, I think that it is, it continues to be very important for any leader in this country to be willing to meet with others, whether they be friends or adversaries or potential adversaries if we are serious about the pursuit of peace and securing our country.”
Gabbard also drew a comparison between her meeting with Assad to President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim-Jong un in 2018.
“I have seen this cost of war firsthand, which is why I fight so hard for peace,” said Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran. “And that’s the reality of the situation that we’re facing here. It’s why I have urged and continue to urge Trump to meet people like Kim Jong-un in North Korea because we understand what’s at stake here.
The only alternative to having these kinds of conversations is more war,” she said.
The US, France and Britain last year fired over 100 missiles at Syrian chemical weapons facilities, with Washington threatening further airstrikes if Assad did not halt the use of chemical warfare. Syria’s government had dismissed the allegations.
Talking about the partial government shutdown, Gabbard said that her party’s leadership was not blameless for the impasse, accusing both sides of posturing and refusing to compromise.
“The problem here is that this issue, like so many others in Washington, is being relegated to partisan politics… Where if a Republican is putting forward a proposal, Democrats are going to shoot it down. If Democrats are putting forward a proposal, Republicans are going to shoot it down,” she said.
“(I’m) really thinking about which party can call a win on this issue.”
The result, she said, is a loss for the country and especially the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown, which has been driven over disagreements about immigration.