The most gafftastic vice president in history has struck again.
Joe Biden is an international name dropper, never failing to mention some world leader or another he has met with and who he says he’s good friends with.
On Thursday, Biden took the ploy a little too far. Speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, Biden told the audience of a private conversation he had with Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan where the Islamist leader admitted he had given arms and money to terrorist groups in Syria. “He (Erdogan) said: ‘You were right. We let too many people through,'” said Biden.
The vice president was trying to show that it’s not the administration’s fault that ISIS became powerful; it’s the fault of our allies.
“The Turks, who are great friends – I have a great relationship with Erdogan, whom I spend a lot of time with – the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc. What were they doing? They were so determined to take down [Syrian President Bashar] Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war,” Biden said.
“What did they do?” Biden continued. “They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and 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-Qaida and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world…. Now they’re trying to seal their border.”
Mr. Erdogan emphatically denies Biden’s assertion that the Turkish President acknowledged his country’s mistake in allowing foreign fighters to cross into Syria, and on Saturday he demanded that Biden apologize.
“Foreign fighters have never entered Syria from our country. They may come to our country as tourists and cross into Syria, but no one can say that they cross in with their arms,” Erdogan said. “I have never said to him that we had made a mistake, never. If he did say this at Harvard then he has to apologize to us.”
Otherwise, Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul, Biden “will be history for me if he has indeed used such expressions.” No word yet whether Biden will apologize to Erdogan.
Biden did apologize, although you wonder whether Erdogan thinks his former friend is, indeed, “history”:
Biden spoke with Erdogan by phone on Saturday, the White House said.
“The vice president apologized for any implication that Turkey or other allies and partners in the region had intentionally supplied or facilitated the growth of ISIL or other violent extremists in Syria,” the White House said, referring to an acronym for the Islamic State group.
The spat comes as Turkey, a NATO ally, is expected to define the role it will play in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic state militants who have captured a swath of Iraq and Syria, in some cases right up to the Turkish border.
While Biden is correct to some extent — most of the original funding for ISIS came from another US ally, Qatar — you don’t go around 1) revealing private conversations with other government’s leaders; and 2) accuse an ally of breaking international law by knowingly giving material support to terrorists.
In Biden’s eagerness to brag about how important he is by revealing conversations with a foreign leader, the hapless veep damaged relations with a NATO ally and weakened NATO itself. Erdogan hardly deserves our sympathy, but Biden’s latest gaffe is one a first year international relations major would know not to make.