Once upon a time, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard traveled to Syria and met with the strongman President Bashar Assad. She considered her willingness to engage all sides of the country’s bloody civil war to be an important step toward peace. For this bold action, she was widely pilloried at the time and considered by some an authoritarian apologist or outright traitor. The claim was repeated again recently by the ever-so-mainstream California Sen. Kamala Harris, a fellow Democratic presidential hopeful. The attacks on Gabbard’s Syria record have been quite regular among Washington insiders, who considered the congresswoman foolish. But was she? More than two years later, given events in Syria, one must conclude that she certainly was not. Indeed, Gabbard was right all along.
Recently, Assad’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has squeezed the anti-regime rebels in their last major stronghold of Idlib, in the country’s northwest. Thus, the latest phase of Syria’s civil war is nearly over. And Assad, along with his Russian and Iranian backers, have won. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. Un-American blasphemy, right? Hardly.
For years, the West and its Gulf State theocratic partners decried the admittedly brutal Assad and sold their populations the fantasy that there were “moderate,” non-Islamist rebels. The reality is that the rebels were infused with, and quickly dominated by, various jihadist fighters from the very start. Yes, Assad is a veritable monster; but what of the Nusra Front (an al-Qaida franchise) and the even more extreme Islamic State—are they not equally deplorable, and, frankly, more of a transnational threat to the U.S.? Of course they are. Assad, at least, posed no serious threat to the United States (neither did his neighbor, Saddam Hussein, by the way) and both suppressed Sunni jihadism and protected Syria’s plethora of Christian, Allawi and other minority populations.
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