“Question: In retrospect do u believe the United States should have acted earlier in Syria, and if not why is now the right moment?
Biden: The answer is ‘no’ for 2 reasons. One, the idea of identifying a moderate middle has been a chase America has been engaged in for a long time. We Americans think in every country in transition there is a Thomas Jefferson hiding beside some rock – or a James Madison beyond one sand dune. The fact of the matter is the ability to identify a moderate middle in Syria was – there was no moderate middle because the moderate middle are made up of shopkeepers, not soldiers – they are made up of people who in fact have ordinary elements of the middle class of that country. And what happened was – and history will record this because I’m finding that former administration officials, as soon as they leave write books which I think is inappropriate, but anyway, (laughs) no I’m serious – I do think it’s inappropriate at least , you know, give the guy a chance to get out of office. And what my constant cry was that our biggest problem is our allies – our allies in the region were our largest problem in Syria. The Turks were great friends – and I have the greatest relationship with Erdogan, which I just spent a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except that the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world. Now you think I’m exaggerating – take a look. Where did all of this go? So now what’s happening? All of a sudden everybody’s awakened because this outfit called ISIL which was Al Qaeda in Iraq, which when they were essentially thrown out of Iraq, found open space in territory in eastern Syria, work with Al Nusra who we declared a terrorist group early on and we could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them. So what happened? Now all of a sudden – I don’t want to be too facetious – but they had seen the Lord. Now we have – the President’s been able to put together a coalition of our Sunni neighbors, because America can’t once again go into a Muslim nation and be seen as the aggressor – it has to be led by Sunnis to go and attack a Sunni organization. So what do we have for the first time?”
Update: The White House on Saturday said Vice President Joe Biden “apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL (IS, ISIS) or other violent extremists in Syria.” The operative word here is “intentionally” – please note that this language does not constitute a retraction of Biden’s claims that the US’s closest Mideast allies armed and funded extremist groups in Syria.
When Joe Biden gets candid, he really lets rip. The US vice president, speaking at the John F. Kennedy Jr Forum at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, on Thursday told his audience – point blank – that America’s Sunni allies are responsible for funding and arming Al Qaeda-type extremists in Syria.
And he named names: Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, specifically. Others –…
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