Vice President Joe Biden is in hot water again.
He apologized twice during the weekend for commenting that the United Arab Emirates and Turkey were among Middle Eastern countries that have facilitated the success of Islamic extremists in Syria.
Biden made his original comments in a foreign policy speech at Harvard University last week. After the remarks were denounced by officials in Turkey and the UAE, Biden phoned leaders of those countries to say he was sorry, a White House spokesman said. The spokesman added that Biden did not mean to suggest that the leaders of these countries intentionally supported extremists in Syria known as ISIL and ISIS.
Biden offered his apologies by phone to Turkish President Recep Tayyep Erdogan, and, separately, to Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and an emirate leader.
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Biden said at Harvard that some Middle Eastern nations including Turkey and the UAE had strengthened the extremists by backing opposition groups that have been trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al Assad. “They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad,” Biden said, “except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts to the world.”
In his speech, Biden also said some U.S. allies have been the “biggest problem” in fighting terrorism, referring to the Islamic extremists in Syria and Iraq. He named Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates as some of the problem nations, according to the Washington Post.
Biden said Erdogan admitted to him that Turkey was wrong to allow foreign fighters to cross the Turkish border into Syria. Erdogan angrily responded with a statement that said he never said such a thing and that Turkey has not allowed foreign fighters to cross its border into Syria.
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Thousands Flee Syria for Turkey
The United States is hoping for strong support from Turkey, UAE and other Middle Eastern countries in the battle against the Islamic extremists, and Biden’s comments won’t make generating that support any easier, his critics say.
Biden, who is considering a 2016 presidential run, has a history of making gaffes. After his Harvard speech, he took a question from a student who identified himself as the vice president of the student body, according to Fox News. Biden quipped, “Ain’t that a bitch?….I mean…excuse me, the vice president thing?”