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OTR Interviews

Dem to Pres. Obama: ISIS clearly gaining momentum, you need to change strategy

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 27, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: President Obama just last week in "The Atlantic" magazine insisting the U.S.-led coalition is not losing to ISIS. But one congressional Democrat taking shots at the White House tragedy, saying ISIS is clearly gaining momentum.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard joins us from Hawaii. Tulsi Gabbard, thank you very much for joining us, Congresswoman.

REP. TULSI GABBARD, D-HAWAII: Aloha, Greta. Good to talk to you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Your thoughts about what exactly is the White House strategy on ISIS?

GABBARD: Well, I think that the White House needs to change its policy on how it is dealing with ISIS and how it's dealing with Iraq and how specifically it's dealing with this central government in Baghdad that really is dealing with the Shia militias, the Shia-led government that's backed by Iran. I think it was a positive thing that we heard Secretary Ash Carter speaking very honestly and candidly the other day about how the Iraqi security forces lacked the will to fight.

What's frustrating to me and to many others is the administration still refuses to provide direct arms and equipment and support to the Kurds and to the Sunni tribes, people who we have fought -- the U.S. has fought should to shoulder with previously to defeat al Qaeda, to fight against al Qaeda, and groups who are now showing that they have the will and the motivation and the courage to fight against is on the ground but lack the adequate equipment to be able to do so. We have got to recognize that they are our troops on the ground. We need to support them.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, congresswoman, it's like the White House is looking at something very different than the rest of us. Because even yesterday, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, in part, he said, "What's true is that the strategy that the president has deployed, alongside our 60 coalition partners has more often than not yielded important success."

If it's yielded important success, how come ISIS has Ramadi and most of the Anbar Province?

GABBARD: Well, again, I would go back to the cause of this problem. You are exactly right. The cause of the problem we are seeing here of why ISIS continues to be able to it maintain a strong hold of in Iraq and make recent gains that they have made is because of the sectarian divide. 

And this focus on this central government in Baghdad that's led by the Shia government and backed by Iran, which has only oppressed the Sunni people and has created this sectarian divide that ISIS has taken advantage of. You have Sunnis who feel that they have nowhere else to turn but other than go into the arms of ISIS, to protect themselves from the oppression of this Shia-led government. So that is a big mistake to be continuing to support and prop up this central government in Baghdad, rather than recognizing our goal must be to defeat ISIS. And we need to work with our partners on the ground who share that goal, who are one pointedly focused on defeating and getting rid of ISIS.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I don't know what our responsibility is and it's probably a dialogue the nation ought to be having. But, you know, the one thing we don't have pictures of is we don't have pictures of those citizens in Ramadi. We don't have pictures of the 500 who died last week. We don't know what's going on right now inside that city. But you can expect humanitarian crisis. People are trying to flee the city. This is just terrible what's going on for these people.

GABBARD: Well, I can tell you, Greta, last week, in Washington, I had a chance to meet with one of the tribal leaders of the Sunni tribes, the largest Sunni tribe in the country of Iraq. He was in Washington meeting with lawmakers and others pleading for this support for the coalition of fighters that he is building up to fight against ISIS and to say, if this Shia militia leads the fight in Ramadi to get rid of ISIS, as we are seeing them doing, this will only further cause problems because of the sectarian divide and the way that the Shia militia has not only badly treated the Sunni tribes but persecuted them, burned down their homes, looted their shops and killed people. So this is a problem that we have got to recognize. If we're truly focused on defeating ISIS, we have got to recognize the problems of the current strategy and fix that so that we can actually accomplish this mission.

VAN SUSTEREN: It just breaks my heart to listen to what's going on there for the civilians. And I suppose we are lucky we don't have the pictures of what they are doing to the civilians and the terror. I don't think anyone could really stomach it if we were look at it.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.

GABBARD: Thanks, Greta. Aloha.

VAN SUSTEREN: Aloha.