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Bipartisan Team of Lawmakers Says Throwing Out Assad Now Will Only Strengthen ISIS

Created: 23 November, 2015
Updated: 18 October, 2022
3 min read

A team of bipartisan lawmakers has introduced a bill designed to end what they call "the illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad."

U.S. Reps. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat and Austin Scott, a Georgia Republican, issued a press release on Friday for HR 4108, their bill to stop the flow of funds to groups fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad:

"The war to overthrow Assad is counter-productive because it actually helps ISIS and other Islamic extremists achieve their goal of overthrowing the Syrian government of Assad and taking control of all of Syria - which will simply increase human suffering in the region, exacerbate the refugee crisis, and pose a greater threat to the world. Also, the war to overthrow Assad is illegal because Congress never authorized it."

Although he held out the possibility of deposing Assad sometime in the future, Scott said the current policy seems likely to bog down the country in an unnecessary entanglement:

"Our primary mission should be the war against ISIS, al Qaeda, and radical Islamic extremists that have operations both inside and outside of Syria and Iraq. . . . Working to remove Assad at this stage is counter-productive to what I believe our primary mission should be."

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Gabbard reiterated her reasoning for leaving Assad in power by citing how war proponents have been consistently wrong about the ease of intervention and the benefits of regime change:

"They said the same thing about Iraq, they said the same thing about Qaddafi in Libya. Look at the state of these countries today. They have been overrun and are filled with chaos. And ISIS and Islamist extremist groups have only grown stronger in these countries and terrorizing the people there."

Gabbard's comments echo other critics of Washington's foreign policy record. Rand Paul, shortly after announcing his presidential campaign in April, explained, "Each time we topple a secular dictator, I think we wind up with chaos, and radical Islam seems to rise." Ousting Saddam Hussein was a "mistake" while the deposition of Qaddafi was an "utter disaster."

Similarly, Donald Trump said in October that the world would be "100%" better with those dictators still in power.

Although she is the Democratic National Committee vice chair, Gabbard split with most in her party on last week's vote on accepting refugees. She was one of 47 Democrats who voted to require rigorous FBI background checks of Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Last week, President Barack Obama repeated his 2011 claim that "Assad must go." His statement indicated U.S. Syrian policy fundamentally remains one of regime change. Likewise, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio wrote in a Politico editorial on Thursday that "Cutting off oxygen to ISIL also requires defeating Assad in Syria."

Public outrage essentially halted a proposed Syrian intervention in 2013. While the legislation has just been introduced, it remains to be seen how successful it can be. Many in both parties have been willing to continue arming Syrian rebels, most of whom have appeared only interested in fighting the Assad government, not ISIS. However, as in 2013, the bipartisan efforts of Gabbard and Austin may indicate public dissension with the foreign policy status quo.

Photo Source: AP