Gabbard declines to call Syria's Assad a war criminal

Washington, March 11 

Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu US Congresswoman and Democratic 2020 presidential candidate, said that she believed her past comments on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been misunderstood, declining to call him a war criminal.

Gabbard was pressed during a CNN interview on Sunday whether she believed Assad used chemical warfare against Syrian civilians.

"I want to correct that because there has been some misunderstanding," the Hawaii Representative said.

"There have been reports showing that chemical weapons have been used in Syria, both by the Syrian Government as well as different terrorist groups on the ground in Syria.

"The scepticism and the questions that I raised were very specific around incidents that the Trump administration was trying to use as an excuse to launch a US military attack in Syria," she added.

Gabbard met Assad in Syria two years ago. She said last month that Assad was "not the enemy of the US because Syria does not pose a direct threat" to Washington.

When asked if she was unsure whether Assad was a war criminal now, Gabbard said: "Everything that I have said requires that we take action based on evidence. (If) the evidence is there, there should be accountability."

Gabbard cited her experience serving in Iraq as informing her approach to Syria.

"I served in a war in Iraq, a war that was launched based on lies, and a war that was launched without evidence," she said. "And so the American people were duped."

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