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Just Back From Syria, Rep. Gabbard Brings Message: ‘There Are No Moderate Rebels’

by Susan Jones from


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) meets with Syrian religious leaders in Aleppo, led by Archbishop Denys Antoine Chahda of the Syrian Catholic Church of Aleppo, and joined by Archbishop Joseph Tabji of Maronite Church of Aleppo, Rev. Ibrahim Nseir of the Arab Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Aleppo, and others. Each called for peace, and an end to foreign support of terrorists who are trying to rid Syria of its secular, pluralistic, free society. (Photo from Gabbard’s website, courtesy of Abraham Williams)
( – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii Democrat, says she made a secret, four-day trip to Syria — meeting with ordinary people and even President Bashar al-Assad — because the suffering of the Syrian people “has been weighing heavily on my heart.”

“I wanted to see if there was in some small way, a way that I could express the love and the aloha and the care that the American people have for the people of Syria, and to see firsthand what was happening there, to see that situation there,” Gabbard told CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper on Wednesday.

She returned with a message:

“I’ll tell you what I heard from the Syrian people that I met with, Jake, walking down the street in Aleppo, in Damascus, hearing from them.

“They expressed happiness and joy at seeing an American walking through their streets. But they also asked why the U.S. and its allies are providing support and arms to terrorist groups like al-Nusra, al-Qaida or al-Sham, ISIS who are on the ground there, raping, kidnapping, torturing and killing the Syrian people.

“They asked me, why is the United States and its allies supporting these terrorist groups who are destroying Syria when it was al Qaida who attacked the United States on 9/11, not Syria. I didn’t have an answer for them,” Gabbard said.

“The reality is… every place that I went, every person that I spoke to, I asked this question to them, and without hesitation, they said, there are no moderate rebels. Who are these moderate rebels that people keep speaking of?

Regardless of the name of these groups, the strongest fighting force on the ground in Syria is al Nusra, or al Qaida and ISIS. That is a fact,” Gabbard said.

“There is a number of different, other groups — all of them essentially are fighting alongside, with, or under the command of the strongest group on the ground that’s trying to overthrow Assad.

“The Syrian people recognize and they know that if President Assad is overthrown, then al Qaida — or a group like al Qaida, that has been killing Christians, killing people simply because of their religion, or because they won’t support their terror activities, they will take charge of all of Syria.

“This is the reality that the people of Syria are facing on the ground, and why they are pleading with us here in the United States to stop supporting these terrorist groups. Let the Syrian people themselves determine their future, not the United States, not some foreign country.”

Gabbard said initially, she didn’t plan to meet with President Assad: “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.”

Tapper noted that Assad is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of people being forced from their homes and even their country during the five-year civil war:

“Did you have any compunctions about meeting with somebody like that, giving him any sort of enhanced credibility because a member of the United States Congress would meet with someone like that?” Tapper asked.

“Whatever you think about President Assad, the fact is that he is the president of Syria,” Tulsi replied. “In order for any peace agreement, in order for any possibility of a viable peace agreement to occur, there has to be a conversation with him,” Gabbard said.

“The Syrian people will determine his outcome and what happens with their government and their future, but our focus, my focus, my commitment is on ending this war that has caused so much suffering to the Syrian people.”

In a speech on the House floor earlier this month, Gabbard criticized America’s “interventionist wars.”

“Our limited resources should go toward rebuilding our communities here at home, not fueling more counterproductive regime change wars abroad.”

She urged her fellow lawmakers to support her bill, the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act,” legislation that would stop the U.S. government from using taxpayer dollars to directly or indirectly support groups allied with terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda in their war to overthrow the Syrian government.

“The fact that our resources are being used to strengthen the very terrorist groups we should be focused on defeating should alarm every American,” Gabbard said.

I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan legislation and stop this madness.”

Gabbard supported Sen. Bernie Sanders for president, but after the election, she was one of many people invited to meet with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York.

“President-elect Trump asked me to meet with him about our current policies regarding Syria, our fight against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS, as well as other foreign policy challenges we face,” Gabbard said about the meeting.

“I felt it important to take the opportunity to meet with the President-elect now before the drumbeats of war that neocons have been beating drag us into an escalation of the war to overthrow the Syrian government — a war which has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives and forced millions of refugees to flee their homes in search of safety for themselves and their families.”


  1. michaelk says

    I think Trump and more probably Steve Bannon understood and noticed that the lurch of the Democrats to the policial right, taking over key Republican policies, but not so much their political rhetoric, created an interesting gap in US politics. The Republicans could hardly, or successfully, move further to the right of the Democrats, and the meant their was room for the ‘social nationalist right’, a leader who could apppeal to the white working class who both the other parties had abandoned and taken for granted electorally. Under the two-party monopoly who were they gonna vote for? But Trump ran as a de facto third party candidate, skillfully presenting himself as an outsider against the establishments of both the big parties, energizing the white working class and the deplorables, at the same time as the black support, so important for Obama, collapsed in 2015. This, I think, is the secret of his success.

  2. Are you people aware that Tulsi Gabbard was a keynote speaker at a Christians United for Israel Conference organized by the ultraright wing preacher John Hagee who is a fanatical Netanyahu supporter?

    She is also a supporter of Modi, the prime minister of India who is arguably the most fascist-like politician in East Asia?

    For more info:

    • Sav says

      This affects her view on Syria because………………………?

      India is in Southern Asia, btw.

  3. michaelk says

    Tulsi Gabbard is potential presidential material, so her getting involved in Syria and challenging the mainstream US political narrative about events in Syria is interesting. It shows how ‘fluid’ American politics have become as Trump’s election shakes thing up in Wasthington. Gabbard is, nominally at least, a Democrat and served two tours in Iraq as an officer in the National Guard, but she’s closer to Trump than she is to the DNC establishment.

    One would imagine that Gabbard would be the ideal woman to be profiled in the Guardian. She’d tick all the liberal/left boxes, only she isn’t a neocon, and doesn’t support our ‘crusades for freedom’ policy, which makes her suspect. She’s part of the non-interventionist new wave of politicians slowly emerging in the United States.

    An awful lot is happening in US politics and it’s happening quickly too. It looks rather chaotic from the outside because the old guard is being pushed aside and the new people haven’t established themselves properly. Trump is all over the place as he attempts to find his feet. His policies look like a work in progress. Trump isn’t a neocon or a neoliberal, which puts him at odds with the old order. There are aspects of his ‘ideology’ that remind one of Italian style fascism. I’d term it ‘social nationalism.’ Which means that he’s probably to the ‘left’ or most US politicians at the present time. Now that’s not saying very much, and only indicates how even further to the extreme right most of them really are compared to Trump. He seems to want to create new variant of Mussolini’s ‘corporate state’ and like Mussolini Trump wants to encorporate more of the ‘social’ into his America First nationalism. I think he and his closest allies understand that for US nationalism to succeed they need to overturn both the old-style Republicans and the liberal/left Democrats, something Trump’s done; then they have to push through a more ‘social national’ agenda and use a rhetoric that appeals to the ‘working man.’ Whether Trump is able to deliver on his promises to his ‘working class’ base, is anoher story. Clearly he can’t simply ignore the ‘social’ part of his nationalist agenda.

    • chrisb says

      Far from being ‘liberal/left’, the Democrats have drifted far to the right since slick Willie became President elect in 1992. That’s what Trump has noted. As for the ‘social’ part of his agenda, he is betting that cutting tax rates will lead to an increase in tax revenues. A bet last made by Reagan in 1981 and one which led to the Federal budget deficit ballooning as Republicans supported the tax cuts and increased military expenditure and the Democrats defended social spending. The only way I see this not being repeated is if there is a return of US corporate capital to the US. This would come in two forms. Firstly, US corporates decide to invest in the US instead of elsewhere. Secondly, an amnesty allows the repatriation of funds held by US corporates offshore. This would have devastating consequences for many countries. Not just Mexico, the obvious victim. Trump’s policies are probably designed to provoke an economic collapse and therefore also political instability in China.

  4. BigB says

    So Trump’s humanitarian plan for Syria – where he has only a self-assumed jurisdiction and anything he plans to implement is extra-judicial, extra-constitutional and by definition, a war crime – is composed of:

    ‘safe zones’ for Syrians in their own country – where the only clear and present danger to their continued well-being and autonomy has been the out of control hordes of terrorist proxies backed ultimately by Washington – for whom (at least nominally) he has just assumed the role of Terrorist-in-Chief. (Oh, he hasn’t had that briefing yet?)

    Likewise, President Assad, who is the democratically elected leader of an independent sovereign nation state, is now assured safety in his own country – where the only clear and present danger to his safety is… ditto. ditto, ditto…

    He plans to further control the outflux of refugees (or radical Islamic extremists as he prefers to call them) by issuing a blanket ban on them seeking asylum in his country – or visiting a relative, or going on holiday; even if they hold dual nationality or a green card; if we’ve bombed you in the last ten years – you’re not coming in. #MuslimBan.
    Does Trump’s magnanimity know no bounds? All I can add is that his second week may actually raise less of a sh_t-storm, by dint of the fact that there is no one left to offend.

    • chrisb says

      The claim that ‘President Assad … is the democratically elected leader of an independent sovereign nation state’ should be qualified. The only elections that could be considered democratic have occurred since 2012 – that is after the start of the civil war and the loss of control by the Syrian Government of much of Syrian territory. Anyone naive enough to believe or malevolent enough to claim that Assad has been a lifelong protector of human rights should remember that only a few years ago the US/UK rendered people to Assad to be tortured – because the Military Intelligence Directorate was experienced at torturing people.

      The inhabitants of areas controlled by the likes of ISIS have good reason to fear that the Syrian Army will kill innocent civilians alongside the ISIS insurgents. Having the Russians behind the Syrian Army will do nothing to allay those fears. The quickest road to peace in Syria and one that involves the minimum number of innocent casualties is one in which the USA and Russia work together, accepting that Assad stays in power until democratic elections can be held. Whether that is Trump’s policy, time will tell – time that he should be given as he challenged the orthodox narrative on Putin and Russia during his election campaign.

      • BigB says

        My apologies, you are right, that statement should be qualified. Leadership of an independent nation state is in no way solely conferred by adherence to the democratic principle, or lack thereof. Nor is the right to autonomy, self determination, or sovereignty in any way determined by adherence to the democratic principle either. Those rights are conferred according to the model of the Peace of Westphalia (formed by nation states that were generally autocratic,) which later became the underlying principle of modern International Law.
        Ergo, Bashar al Assad was the lawful leader of Syria with or without the elections of 2014, and his countries autonomy should have been assured under International Law.
        The reinterpretation and overwriting of International Law to enforce the Western Democratic Principle (WDP) is a relatively recent development. Far from being the very zenith of our socio-cultural evolution, and the be all and end all of history; when the WDP is enforced by aggression, tacit or real, backed by the full force of the Imperial American MIC (plus allies); it is no longer democracy – but hypocrisy.
        As for the Syrian elections of 2014, they were free and fair, internationally monitored and returned Assad by a landslide. The fact that part of the territory was occupied by Washington’s terrorist proxies in no way undermines the support for Assad given by the Syrian people – unless you are a Western propagandist.
        Compare and contrast the recent election of the Leader of the Free World, by the world’s indispensable and exceptional nation and bastion of the WDP. What a fraudulent sh_tshow that turned out to be.
        In fact, America is so big on (other nations) democracy that it has subverted the process of 81 countries in 54 years – it seems to me that their leaders can no longer discern between Western hypocrisy and Western democracy.
        (BTW, sorry to disappoint, but the ‘civil war’ didn’t happen – it was a proxy Western backed invasion.)
        Rest assured, in no way do I condone torture, nor do I have a blindspot for Assad – what I respect and want to see upheld is the right to self-determination for the Syrian people – and by extension the adherence to the only UN Mandate in force over Syria (UNSC Resolution 2254) that the “Syrian people will decide the future of Syria.”
        Allegations of torture have been founded, at least in part, on the now debunked ‘Caesar Dossier’ – and stem from the very Salafist/ Muslim Brotherhood/Takfiri proxies of regime change – “if you want to kill your dog, accuse him of having rabies first.” Make no mistake, if Assad is guilty of torture – he should stand trial – along with many of the leaders of the free world, (past and present) for their ‘Crimes Against the Peace’ – but If the law is to be selectively applied solely for regime change, it is just another form of hypocrisy.
        Also, if we are going to compare and contrast with Assad, let’s make the Human Rights debate inclusive of all of Washington’s partners in crime – and put the Saudis, Qataris, Turks, Isrealis, the US, UK etc. in the dock – and see who comes out smelling of roses from that foetid swamp? If we judge others by a differing standard than we set ourselves, it is yet another form of hypocrisy.
        Can someone ask Samantha Power (the Queen of Interventionism) why the Right to Protect (R2P) and intervene are applied specifically, and not universally, for regime change – surely the R2P should apply equally to the Palestinians, for instance? Hypocrisy on hypocrisy?
        I could carry on, but this is overlong as it is – suffice to say – until we have a truly international International Law (based on the Nuremberg Principles) – with universal accountability, jurisdiction and application – hypocrisy will continue unbounded.

        • chrisb says

          Voting did not take part in large parts of Syria, largely populated by groups of people who have been historically opposed to Assad and to Alawite rule. Then there is the question of the nature of voting during a civil war. Many of the Syrians, who did vote for Assad, probably voted for the Syrian Army to defend them from ISIS and the other barbarian hordes. The true level of support for Assad will only be seen in elections that follow a period of peace. having said that, I would not be surprised to see Assad elected. The consequence of the foreign intervention in Syria will almost certainly be to have strengthened Assad – exactly the opposite of its intention.

          As for the reports of murder and torture, they are numerous and go back decades. You may think the rule of Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar’s father, to be irrelevant. Syrians, however, do not. They remember the murder of non-combatants and atrocities committed since the Ba’athists came to power and those trapped behind rebel lines fear that they will suffer as did civilians in Hama in 1982. You may think that the Sunnis had it coming to them and that the murder of tens of thousands of civilians is of no consequence. However, those who wish to see peace established in Syria with the minimum number of civilian deaths do not. If safe passage can be assured for civilians, so as to isolate ISIS and other terrorist groups, then all the better.

          • BigB says

            “You may think the rule of Hafez Al-Assad, Bashar’s father, to be irrelevant.”
            Not at all, but you didn’t draw that distinction before. Hafez killed 17-20,000 (up to 40,000 some estimates say) of his own people and wiped out the Muslim Brotherhood for a generation when he violently suppressed the uprising at Hama – of course that is still relevant.
            Trust me, we want the same thing – peace for the Syrian people (preferably) without a single other civilian death – but I don’t trust the American’s true motives.
            Trump’s message to Assad, delivered by Ms. Gabbard completely ignores the fact that a perfectly viable peace process is underway without them, that will soon move from Astana to Geneva for possible UN Ratification. The Syrians don’t need another American ‘Peace’ plan, they have had enough of Washington’s plans for their country already – but I fear that the real powers that be in and behind Washington – will only allow peace on American terms (and they aren’t even at the table.)
            Trump’s predecessor let the dogs of war off the leash. If Trump wants peace, the best he could do is call the dogs to heel, and put them back on the leash and go home. Without continued external interference, there could be a lasting peace in Syria within months, not years.
            The real power brokers of America however, do not want Russia, China and Iran to rebuild Syria within the sphere of Russian/Chinese influence. Especially, they do not (and probably will not) allow Iranian gas to be piped across Syria to the European markets. Hell will have to freeze first.
            The fact that these are not decisions for an exterior force or nation to take; the fact that the UN has already ratified the Syrian right to self-determination (UN 2254;) the fact that Russia has upheld the ‘inviolable’ right to sovereignty in its proposed draft constitution (for Syrians to determine the full and final content of;) the fact that continued interference by the projection of hard or soft power (‘humanitarian’ NGOs) will lead to more death and destruction – these facts are irrelevant to the ‘National Security issues’ of the psychopaths that pull Trump’s strings.
            I pray for peace but can’t afford to hold my breath until it is upon those who so desperately need it in Syria.

    • Jen says

      “… [Trump] plans to further control the outflux of refugees (or radical Islamic extremists as he prefers to call them) by issuing a blanket ban on them seeking asylum in his country – or visiting a relative, or going on holiday; even if they hold dual nationality or a green card; if we’ve bombed you in the last ten years – you’re not coming in. #MuslimBan …”

      There is a very interesting article at Seth Frantzman’s “Terra Incognita” blog where he discusses Trump’s ban on refugees from seven countries.

      In reading the full text of the executive order that bans these refugees, Frantzman discovers that six of the seven countries are not named: the order actually says this:

      ” … ‘I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.’ …”

      Syrians are singled out:

      ” … ‘I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is detrimental to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made to the USRAP to ensure that admission of Syrian refugees is consistent with the national interest.’…”

      In other words, the ban is temporary: 90 days for refugees from Libya, Iraq, Iran, Yemen and Somalia; and for Syrian refugees, it is dependent on further developments. This presumably gives the State Department enough time to develop a policy to deal with refugees, other immigrants and non-immigrants from the target countries while it is replacing those senior Foggy Bottom personnel who have either been fired or who have elected to leave. (Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Vicky Cookie Monster.)

      U.S.C. 1187 can be read here:

      The countries concerned had already been targeted by the Department of Homeland Security over several years during President Obama’s two terms as President.

      • BigB says

        Which kinda draws the inference that Obama’s dubious record on immigration may well become Trump’s dubious record on immigration – the ship continues on course – and the change of regime is only apparent by the raising of a different colour on the masthead. In the same way, Kerry’s negotiated no-fly-zones become Trump’s ‘safe zones’ for refugees?
        I mean, in nearly forty years of observing the American juggernaut has charted a near straight-line course, the changes in ‘crew’ are virtually indiscernible – the only real question is “who is steering?”

      • Peter says

        I’d just like to point out that, so far, RT has simply ignored Trump’s refugee ban – the last time I tuned in (this morning, Sunday), they still weren’t mentioning it, either in their spoken news bulletins or in the running scripts at the bottom of the screen, where they were concentrating on the Trump-Putin phone call. Un-news?

  5. Peter says

    I’m surprised someone like Gabbard can still get elected in La La Land (aka the United States of America).

    Good on her, but she’s going to come in for a lot of flak. (Google ‘Tulsi Gabbard Syria’ and look at what comes up – thedailybeast, for example).

  6. pavlovscat7 says

    Good?? cartoon..Another Good?? cartoon was one with Israel winding the key in Obamas’ back who was simultaneously winding the key in Jihadis back.
    Genesis 16:12…the greatest verbal ever inflicted on mankind. Not surprising that Ishmael wrote his own book of bullshit.

  7. Jen says

    According to Ziad Fadel at, Tulsi Gabbard also delivered a message to Syrian President Bashar al Assad from the new Trump administration.

    “When Tulsi Gabbard finally admitted that she met Dr. Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, we [] were free to discuss what we knew about her trip. At first, we respected her deliberate efforts to obscure the fact that she met with [Assad]. But, she also met with President-elect Trump who told her that he wanted her to deliver a message. The first message was that Dr. Assad had nothing to fear from the United States. The U.S. will not truck with any party out to change governments. This is why Boris Johnson, the U.K.’s foreign minister, has just declared that the U.K. had no objections to Dr. Assad running again for the office of the president. Leave aside the fact that we don’t care about the opinions of some limey aristocrat or elitist, we do care about the U.K.’s constant violations of international law by its facilitating terrorism. In any case, Donald Trump has delivered his message successfully to Dr. Assad.

    The second message has to do with Trump’s willingness to help the Syrian government to control the out-flux of refugees by establishing a “safe zone” for Syrians in areas controlled by either the Syrian Army or the Russian Air Force. I have been informed that Dr. Assad has accepted this kind of benign interference as long as it was coordinated with the Syrian government.

    The third message she carried to Dr. Assad was that the U.S. is intent upon wiping out every vestige of ISIS and Alqaeda, and, that it would do so in coordination with Russia and the Syrian government …”

    • BigB says

      Ok @Jen, I’m taking everything you write onboard, and Trump’s message at face value and giving him a pass for the moment – but May and Johnson I have every reason to distrust. I think the hard option of regime change is off the cards (for now) – but the soft option – of infiltration by governmental Non Governmental Organisations posing as aid and rebuilding partners very much remains. To expose such aims, Vanessa Beeley has just attended the Regional Refugee Resilience Plan (3RP) meeting in Helsinki. She pointed out that the Syrians have chosen their rebuilding partners in China, Russia and Iran. Her full report was on the UKColumn news:

      • pavlovscat7 says

        Now that’s Romulus and Remus cooperation on a global scale isn’t it? America destroys it, Russia and China rebuilds it…..Sons’a bitches;

  8. BigB says

    Tulsi Gabbard hits the nail on the head – stop funding the extremist terror groups (as well as stop arming them, providing logistical support, etc) and they’ll pack up and go home – they are not so much an ideological army fighting a holy war – as a bunch of foreign mercenaries fighting Washington’s proxy war. The mythical clash of civlisations is just that – a myth. So Mr Trump – have you the ears to hear?
    If we are supposed to judge this man by his actions, here is the perfect opportunity to prove his mettle.
    But wait, if he alleviates the manufactured extreme Islam threat, and manages some sort of detente with Russia – who is there to maintain the strategy of fear and tension around – Assads supposed backers in Tehran? China? How is he going to keep Israel, Saudi and Qatar happy? Dilemmas, dilemmas.
    He could be the President for World Peace – or he might just let things roll on (blame Obama – which would be true) and build a wall on the border with Mexico instead.

  9. “They expressed happiness and joy at seeing an American walking through their streets. But they also asked why the U.S. and its allies are providing support and arms to terrorist groups like al-Nusra, al-Qaida or al-Sham, ISIS who are on the ground there, raping, kidnapping, torturing and killing the Syrian people.

    Wow, that goes to show us dumbass ‘Muricans that Islam is a religion of peace and that Syrians still want to be our friends, despite all the carnage, death, mayhem and destruction we’ve visited upon Syria in a insane attempt to dictate who they can have as their leader.

    The amount of devastation we are responsible for in Syria–and Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan–is thousands of times worse than the CIA 9/11 False Flag, yet these people are kind enough to still forgive our sins.
    Yet Americans have been on a murder spree since 9/11, saluting the flag and pounding each other on the back for being so ‘patriotic.’

    I am so ashamed to be an American.

    • We all have to have been born somewhere. As it happens I was born in the USA, but I take no responsibility for US foreign policy. Nor, I think, should you. I have read your comments on this and other sites and your voice has been clear and consistent in opposition to war. I commend you.

  10. A pity Ms Gabbard doesn’t appear to have challenged the baseless assertion that Assad is responsible for “hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of [displaced persons and refugees]”.

    • BigB says

      If you watch the video you may see, that in her own way Ms Gabbard did challenge the baseless assertion about Assad – and plenty of other baseless assertions that Tapper threw at her – by remaining calm, ignoring his hostility and getting her message across. If she’d gone any further, she would have caused a power failure due to a fake Russian power grid hack, FFS!

    • Jen says

      I think Jake Tapper wanted to draw Gabbard into an argument about Assad that would have wasted time and detracted from her message. Gabbard was wise not to take the bait.

      • BigB says

        I watched another clip (from 21st Century Wire) and Tapper led into the discussion above with a tweet to Trump by Bana Alebad (pictured sitting on Erdogan’s knee!) pleading “I beg you, can you please do something for the children of Syria.”
        Tulsi Gabbard was really up against it and did well to get across what she could.

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