US presidential hopeful Gabbard accuses Trump of supporting al-Qaeda
Speaking to FOX News @ Night after Wednesday night's presidential candidate debate, Gabbard spoke of Trump's "support and alliance with Saudi Arabia that is both providing direct and indirect support directly to Al Qaeda".
The Hawaii congresswoman also criticised the controversial kingdom's leading role in the four-year-long war on Yemen.
"How can you say Saudi Arabia is a great partner in fighting terrorism when they are fuelling and funding terrorist groups in Yemen?" she said.
Gabbard also claimed that Saudi Arabia was pushing for war against Iran.
Tensions in the Gulf have risen dramatically in the past few months, with regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia, and their respective allies, sparring over Yemen and oil tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz, a vital world trade route.
Trump's perceived coziness with Saudi Arabia, combined with the role of prominent war hawk National Security Advisor John Bolton, has led to fears of war between the US and Iran.
Such a war would be "far more devastating, far more costly" than the Iraq war, Gabbard, a veteran of that conflict, said.
Gabbard also criticised fellow Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris over her former role as California Attorney General during the debate.
Harris was slammed for putting "over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations", keeping "people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labour", and "blocking evidence" for people on Death Row.
'Support' for Assad
But Gabbard's vociferous criticisms of President Trump and Senator Harris have come under fire from critics who say Gabbard's support for Assad makes her a hypocrite.
The Hawaii congresswoman admitted to meeting with the Syrian regime leader two years ago during what she described as a "fact-finding mission" to Syria.
Assad is widely regarded as a war criminal for his role overseeing the brutal repression of the Syrian revolution and subsequent civil war, which has seen his regime use barrel bombs, chemical weapons and torture against civilians.
Gabbard's trip to Damascus was funded by Bassam Khawam, a board member of the Arab American Community Centre for Economic and Social Services who has been linked to the Assad regime and the pro-Assad, Syrian Social Nationalist Party.
In response to widespread criticism over the visit, the congresswoman said: "Whatever you think of 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 has since doubled-down on her defence of Assad.
On her official campaign website, the presidential candidate claims all Syrian rebels are "terrorist-aligned" and has repeatedly condemned support for the rebels as a "regime change war".
"Human rights in Syria will be absolutely crushed if Assad is removed and al-Qaeda/ISIS are allowed to take over and establish an [sic] caliphate in Syria, which is what will happen if the attempt to 'dictator topple' Assad succeeds," a statement listing Gabbard's "key points" on Syria reads.
Social media critics labelled Gabbard’s critique of Harris' treatment of the California justice system as hypocritical for the same reasons.
Assad's regime has overseen the imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, and allegations of torture, sexual abuse and killings in the prisons are widespread.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) estimates that more than 14,000 people have died under torture by the Syrian regime since 2011.
The location of nearly 128,000 detainees is still unknown. They are presumed to be either dead or still detained in horrific conditions, according to the SNHR.
In response to Gabbard's criticisms, Harris labeled the Hawaii congresswoman an "apologist" for Assad, who "has murdered the people of his country like cockroaches".
"She refuses to call him a war criminal," Harris told CNN.
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