U.S. diplomat has temper tantrum due to Clinton delay

FP‘s The Cable is reporting that the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Joseph LeBaron, became angry and threw some sort of temper tantrum two weekends ago when Secretary Clinton was meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during her visit to Qatar. (In the file photo above, the two meet in Turkey on March 7, ...

BURHAN OZBILICI/AFP/Getty Images
BURHAN OZBILICI/AFP/Getty Images
BURHAN OZBILICI/AFP/Getty Images

FP's The Cable is reporting that the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Joseph LeBaron, became angry and threw some sort of temper tantrum two weekends ago when Secretary Clinton was meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during her visit to Qatar. (In the file photo above, the two meet in Turkey on March 7, 2009.)

The meeting was only supposed to be 20 minutes, but it had gone on for more than an hour, delaying Clinton's subsequent meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The details are fuzzy because different witnesses are saying different things, but it appears that LeBaron got into a yelling match with Turkish Ambassador Fuat Tanlay, who wanted to let Clinton and Erdogan continue their meeting. LeBaron then banged loudly on the door leading to where Clinton and Erdogan were meeting.

Here's where witnesses' accounts get really disputed:

FP‘s The Cable is reporting that the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, Joseph LeBaron, became angry and threw some sort of temper tantrum two weekends ago when Secretary Clinton was meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan during her visit to Qatar. (In the file photo above, the two meet in Turkey on March 7, 2009.)

The meeting was only supposed to be 20 minutes, but it had gone on for more than an hour, delaying Clinton’s subsequent meeting with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. The details are fuzzy because different witnesses are saying different things, but it appears that LeBaron got into a yelling match with Turkish Ambassador Fuat Tanlay, who wanted to let Clinton and Erdogan continue their meeting. LeBaron then banged loudly on the door leading to where Clinton and Erdogan were meeting.

Here’s where witnesses’ accounts get really disputed:

  • LeBaron was physically restrained and escorted away, says one U.S. government official. 
  • Nothing physical happened and LeBaron left voluntarily, another U.S. official says.
  • LeBaron "was pulled away from the door, at which time several of us interceded," P.J. Crowley, the State Department’s assistant secretary for public affairs, told The Cable.  
  • He wasn’t pulled away or "restrained in any way," another U.S. official told The Cable.
  • "no violence or physical contact occurred," LeBaron himself wrote to The Cable.
  • After the heated verbal exchange, LeBaron and Tanlay "proceeded to grab each other by the neck and had to be separated by officials," the Turkish newspaper Sabah is reporting.

Yeaks! Sounds at least like the yelling and door-banging parts are true. Not very diplomatic.

Clinton is a smart and conscientious woman. If she went over her 20 minutes, it’s undoubtedly because she was discussing topics of crucial importance and knew that any delay was well worth it. In fact, The Cable reports that Clinton and Erdogan were discussing "substantial" issues, such as sanctions against Iran, a topic on which the United States and Turkey view things very differently.

People should not yell and bang on doors when Clinton is using her star power to engage in high-level diplomacy.

Preeti Aroon was copy chief at Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2016 and was an FP assistant editor from 2007 to 2009. Twitter: @pjaroonFP

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