Who are Washington’s foes in the Middle East? How can you make others impose sanctions, to their disadvantage? As Joe Biden spoke at Harvard, US global policies were somewhat revealed – or simply slipped out. Here are his top five quotes.
Fighting terrorism is the “fourth element” of US foreign policy, Biden told Harvard students. Though he mentioned Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, he also stated that the insurgents are not Washington’s “biggest problem in Syria.” Instead, he said the largest hurdle is actually America’s“allies in the region.”
He elaborated that the problems are stemming from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, because those nations are “so determined to take down Assad.” He added that they started a “proxy Sunni-Shia war” supplying cash to those fighting against the Syrian president.
On Turkey admitting its ‘mistake’
In another unexpected revelation, Biden said that “his old friend” – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – admitted that the US was “right.”
But there was just one slight problem with that statement – Erdogan claimed that he had never said any such thing to Biden, and demanded an apology. The US vice president did, in fact, apologize in a phone call to Erdogan, “clarifying” what he meant to say.
He then had to utter another apology, after the United Arab Emirates expressed “surprise” over supposedly being Washington’s “biggest problem” in the Middle East.
On corruption in Ukraine
Speaking on Washington’s role in the Ukrainian conflict, Biden praised the Obama administration for “helping” the crisis-torn state fight corruption – while President Putin “sought to keep Ukraine weak”through it.
“We’re helping those leaders fight back corruption […] by helping them write new laws, set up a new judiciary and much more,” he said.
Biden did not clarify what he meant by “much more,” but there have been videos on YouTube alleging that the US private security service formerly known as Blackwater is operating in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk.
On making EU impose sanctions
Biden also confessed that it was the US which pushed the EU into extending sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. “It is true they did not want to do that,” he said.
But it’s perhaps easier for Washington to make those decisions than the EU. After all, the US is not crisis-stricken Spain, which is now estimated to miss out on 337 million euro (US$421 million) in food and agriculture sales to Russia now that the sanctions game is on. Nor it is Italy, which has estimated its losses at nearly one billion euro ($1.2 billion).
On who shot down MH17
The US vice president said it was Washington who “exposed” Russia’s support to rebels in Ukraine“who shot down [the] civilian airliner.”
The US has been blaming Russia for supporting anti-Kiev fighters in Donetsk – but has still failed to provide reasonable evidence, except for incomprehensible images.
All in all, this has not been an easy fall for VP Biden. In mid-September, he was forced to apologize for using the offensive slur “shylock” to describe home-loan lenders. Right after that, while taking part in a women’s conference, Biden praised former US senator Bob Packwood for his bipartisanship – but Packwood resigned in 1995 following several allegations of sexual offenses.
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