In a rare and unprecedented speech delivered on the House floor just two days after the nation memorialized 9/11, Democratic Hawaiian Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard on Thursday slammed Washington’s longtime support to anti-Assad jihadists in Syria, while also sounding the alarm over the current build-up of tensions between the US and Russia over the Syria crisis.
She called on Congress to condemn what she called the Trump Administration’s protection of al-Qaeda in Idlib and slammed Washington’s policies in Syria as “a betrayal of the American people” — especially the victims and families that perished on 9/11.
Considering that Congresswoman Gabbard herself is an Iraq war veteran and current Army reserve officer who served in the aftermath of 9/11, it’s all the more power and rare that a sitting Congress member would make such forceful comments exposing the hypocrisy and contradictions of US policy.
On Thursday an anti-Assad group in Syria’s south confirmed to Reuters via its ‘rebel’ commander that it is conducting rare military exercises with American forces in order to “send a strong message to Russia and Iran that the Americans and the rebels intend to stay and confront any threats to their presence,” according to a new Reuters report.
The anti-Assad commander, Colonel Muhanad al Talaa, is part of the Pentagon-backed Maghawir al Thawra group now conducting eight days of “live-fire and ground assault” drills that involve “hundreds” of U.S. troops and allied Syrian insurgents cooperating together.
“These exercises have a big importance and have beefed up the defenses of the area and raised the combat capabilities and morale and that of civilians in the area,” Talaa said in a statement from Tanf.
The US appears to be responding to the major Russian naval and amphibious assault drills along Syria’s coast from last week. This also comes after Moscow warned its forces could attack in the area near US-occupied At Tanf in pursuit of al-Qaeda linked jihadists that Russia says hides out under US protected areas.
The U.S. military has said in recent statements that it is not seeking military confrontation with Russia, and a spokesman said US coalition commanders maintain “deconfliction” channels with Moscow’s forces to prevent “miscommunication or escalate tension”.
“The exercise was conducted to reinforce our capabilities and ensure we are ready to respond to any threat to our forces within our area of operations’” Colonel Sean Ryan stated of the Marine-Syrian rebel exercises, according to Reuters.
American forces have enforced a 55 km (35 mile)-radius “deconfliction zone” around its garrison in At Tanf, which has been declared “off-limits” to others.
Meanwhile both Russia and Syria have condemned the presence of the base and others as a clear violation of Syrian sovereignty, and have lodged multiple formal complaints the UN Security Council, which have been routinely rebuffed or ignored.
The ‘rebel’ commander now fighting alongside the Marines told Reuters further that, “We are staying whether the Russians or Iranians want or not.”