Tulsi Gabbard Says Syria's Assad Not 'Enemy' of U.S., Country Poses No Direct Threat

Tulsi Gabbard, the Hawaii representative and 2020 Democratic candidate for president, defended Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said he is not the "enemy."

Gabbard, who met with Assad during a 2017 "fact-finding" mission in Syria told MSNBC's Morning Joe Wednesday he is not an enemy of the U.S., despite the ruthless leader having used chemical weapons against opposition forces inside his own country. The hosts of the show pushed back against the Hawaii Democrat's comments, but Gabbard, who is a veteran, said she is more concerned with how our military is being used in the Middle East.

"Assad is not the enemy of the United States, because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States," said Gabbard, striking an anti-interventionist tone throughout the interview. "My point is that whether it is Syria or any of these other countries, we need to look at how their interests are counter to or aligned with ours."

Gabbard has opposed U.S. intervention in Syria since at least 2013 as well as cautioning against other Middle East activity including Saudi Arabian arms deals and 2014 air strikes in Iraq to put down a resurgence in Islamic militants. Gabbard has previously dismissed U.S.-backed rebels and opposition forces against Assad as "terrorists."

Speaking with CNN's Jake Tapper in 2017, Gabbard said she didn't intend on meeting Assad during her visit to the war-torn country. "Initially I hadn't planned on meeting him. When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so, because I felt it's important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we've got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace. And that's exactly what we talked about."

Gabbard brought a Syrian Kurdish leader to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday, saying she is seeking a peace deal in Damascus. She encouraged Trump and congressional Republicans to pull U.S. military forces out of Syria.

"We must bring our troops home from Syria quickly & responsibly. Trump's announced hasty withdrawal from Syria could leave Kurds vulnerable to slaughter by Turkey's President Erdogan who has repeatedly threatened to attack them & invade Syrian territory long-held by Syrian Kurds," Gabbard tweeted Tuesday.

Speaking on Morning Joe Wednesday, Gabbard continued her point about being more careful where the U.S. military is deployed abroad.

"It's important to talk about how our military is being used, what it is costing them, what it is costing the American people and whether or not those missions, those objectives serve the security of the United States and the American people," she said.

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Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii congresswoman and 2020 Democratic candidate for president, defended Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said he is not the “enemy.” Screenshot: MSNBC "Morning Joe"