Long opposed to US attempts to impose regime change in Syria, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D – HI) has made a trip to Syria this week, an unannounced visit which saw Gabbard spending considerable time in the capital city of Damascus “to promote and work for peace.”
Gabbard’s office, citing security, says a lot of the details of the trip are not going to be revealed until she has returned to the United States, and they declined to say if she had met directly with President Bashar al-Assad, though they did confirm she’d met with several government leaders while in Damascus.
With considerable foreign policy similarities between the two, Gabbard has met with President-elect Donald Trump since the election, and was rumored to be under consideration for important cabinet positions. It is entirely possible then that she made the visit as a de facto Trump Administration negotiator.
That they specifically declined to say if Rep. Gabbard met with Assad is tantamount to an admission that she did, and indeed it’s hard to imagine she would visit Damascus with an eye toward talking peace without meeting with the Syrian president.
It’s more likely that the denial is intended to prevent any specific official debate around the visit until Friday’s inauguration, and that this represents an attempt by the Trump Administration to covertly get out in front of the upcoming Syrian peace talks, which begin Monday in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Trump has already been very public in faulting the existing US policy in Syria, and has talked about scrapping efforts to arm the various rebel factions. Gabbard has long criticized the CIA arms smuggling venture, and could easily be laying the groundwork for a quick policy shift in the days to come.