The White House’s dubious fixer of first resort, National Security Advisor Susan Rice, has stepped in it again. While she may not have intentionally misled the nation in yet another infamous appearance on a Sunday news program, this was the effect of her announcement that the United States had made a diplomatic breakthrough in talks with reluctant NATO ally Turkey.
On Sunday, the Pentagon revealed that an agreement had been reached with officials in Ankara to allow American warplanes to use Turkish bases as part of the air campaign over Syria. Turkey also reportedly agreed to provide some rebels fighting in Syria with light arms and to train some groups engaged in the fight against ISIS in infantry tactics.
Turkey has thus far been disinclined to join coalition forces fighting Islamist militants in Iraq and Syria, and its porous southern border has provided aspiring Western Islamist fighters with a pathway to transit into Syria in order to link up with groups like the Islamic State.
The Pentagon’s announcement was corroborated by Rice who appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press.
“They have said that their facilities inside of Turkey can be used by the coalition forces, American and otherwise, to engage in activities inside of Iraq and Syria,” Rice told Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd. “That’s a new commitment, and one that we very much welcome.”
Slow down, say Turkish official said on Monday.
“NATO allies Turkey and the United States differed Monday on where they stand on the use of a key air base, with Turkish officials denying reports from the United States that there was a new agreement on its use for operations against Islamic State militants,” the Associated Press reported on Monday.
U.S. officials said again Monday that Turkey would let U.S. and coalition forces use its bases, including Incirlik air base, which is within 100 miles of the Syrian border, for operations against the Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
However, emerging Monday from a Cabinet meeting, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bulent Arinc, said that “apart from the existing cooperation in combatting terrorism, there is no new situation concerning Incirlik air base.”
The deputy premier added that Turkey had proposed the use of some of its bases to train and equip moderate opposition forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but said the sides had not yet come to any agreement.
Both the Pentagon and Rice had to know that any cooperation agreement with the United States was likely to inflame the sensitive domestic situation inside Turkey, in which a significant portion of the population is relatively indifferent toward the Islamic State and hostile toward the West. The rush to announce this deal can be most charitably interpreted as an effort by administration officials to promote the fact that the United States had achieved a victory – any victory – in the more than two-month-old war against ISIS.
But announcing this deal prematurely has apparently resulted in its scuttling. There is no other way to characterize an action that amateurish as anything other than pure and complete incompetence. The administration would have deserved credit for engineering a deal with Turkey, one which was probably in the final stages of negotiations, but they deserve equal scorn for revealing it publicly and subsequently wrecking it.
Beyond setting the American position in the Middle East back significantly, the White House has again put Susan Rice in a position where her already damaged credibility will take a deserved hit.
Rice was infamously deployed by the administration in the wake of the Benghazi attacks to do the full Ginsburg on the various Sunday morning news programs where she blamed that attack on a YouTube video. It was later revealed, following the release of State Department talking points memos, that few in the administration believed the video had inspired that coordinated, multistage assault on a diplomatic annex and a CIA safe house which resulted in the death of four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador.
Rice was again dispatched onto newsroom sets in the wake of the White House’s illegal transfer of Guantanamo Bay prisoners back to Afghanistan in exchange for the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Rice claimed that Bergdahl served with “honor and distinction” in the U.S. armed forces, but a parade of his former platoon mates contradicted her claim. Several former service men who served with Bergdahl alleged that he deserted, and that the mission to recover him resulted in the unnecessary deaths of American soldiers. The U.S. Army has conducted an investigation into these claims, but they will not release the findings of that investigation until after the midterm elections. The overwhelming circumstantial evidence available to the public today suggests that Rice, again, misled the nation in a misguided attempt to burnish the White House’s image.
Why is there not more outrage over how Rice is being consistently abused by this administration? Where are the champions of women and minority advancement protesting her treatment by the White House? On a less trivial note, is anyone remotely concerned that our nation’s chief national security advisor to the president is so consistently and visibly wrong about matters relating to national security?
Or, maybe, so few are asking these questions because the administration’s allies are comfortable sacrificing Rice if it takes the heat off of the president.