US lawmaker says she met with Assad on secret Syria trip

In this July 26, 2016 file photo, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
Updated 26 January 2017
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US lawmaker says she met with Assad on secret Syria trip

WASHINGTON: The US congresswoman who made a recent secret trip to war-torn Syria confirmed on Wednesday that she met there with President Bashar Assad as part of her effort to end the years-long conflict.
House Democrat Tulsi Gabbard this month traveled to Damascus and the decimated city of Aleppo on a fact-finding mission, where she met with refugees, Syrian opposition leaders and relatives of fighters on both sides of the divide, in addition to Assad.
“Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it,” Gabbard said in a statement.
“I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.”
In an interview on CNN, she added: “Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria. In order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him.”
Gabbard, 35, was a member of the Hawaii National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2005.
Two weeks after Donald Trump won the November 8 election, she met with him to discuss Syria, raising speculation that he might consider her for a position at the Pentagon or State Department.
Gabbard, who often clashes with her own party on issues related to Syria, has long opposed a US policy of regime change there, arguing that the country would descend further into chaos should Assad be ousted.


Iran launches air maneuvers near Strait of Hormuz

Updated 21 September 2018
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Iran launches air maneuvers near Strait of Hormuz

  • The drill involves the military’s and Revolutionary Guard fighter jets

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s official IRNA news agency says the country’s air force is carrying out a drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Arabian Gulf, the passageway for nearly a third of all oil traded by sea.
Friday’s report says the drill involves the military’s and Revolutionary Guard fighter jets, including US-made F-4, French Mirage and Russian Sukhoi-22 planes. Five logistics and combat helicopters are also taking part in the exercise over the Arabian Gulf waters and the Sea of Oman.
It says the maneuver is a warning to Iran’s enemies that they face a quick, “stern response” in case of force toward Iran.
The exercise is part of annual manifestations on the anniversary of the start of the eight-year war Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein launched against Iran in 1980.