WASHINGTON — Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has made an unannounced trip to Syria and Lebanon, traveling to the region two months after she sat down with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss foreign policy.
The Hawaii congresswoman has frequently challenged President Barack Obama on national security issues. In the meeting with Trump, she warned him about escalating the civil war in Syria by establishing a no-fly zone to protect civilians from the bombing. She has said she believes that creating such a safe zone off limits to military aircraft could bring the U.S. into direct conflict with Russia and result in nuclear war.
Spokeswoman Emily Latimer said Wednesday that Gabbard, who is a major in the Army National Guard, “has long been committed to peace and ending counterproductive, interventionist wars.”
Latimer wouldn’t say if Gabbard met with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“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,” Latimer said in a statement.
She said she wouldn’t provide any additional details on the trip until Gabbard returns.
In her November meeting with Trump, Gabbard said the two discussed legislation she is pushing that would end what she described as “our country’s illegal war to overthrow the Syrian government.”
Trump asked for the meeting, Gabbard said then, to discuss Syria, the fight to defeat the Islamic State group and al-Qaida, and other foreign policy issues.
Gabbard, who backed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primary, said she accepted the meeting with Trump over concern that a wing of the Republican Party known as the neocons will grow in influence once Trump takes office in January. She said that could push the U.S. more deeply into Syria, where the war now in its sixth year has killed as many as a half-million people.
The Obama administration has refrained from setting up a no-fly, or safe, zone for civilians in Syria partly because of the complexity in enforcing it and the potential for direct military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia.
The administration has refused to target Assad’s forces directly but has provided air support to the battle-hardened Syrian Kurds. Trump, however, has expressed skepticism about U.S. backing for Syrian rebels and hinted at working more closely with Moscow against the Islamic State.
Gabbard’s trip was first reported by Foreign Policy.
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